Fat Free Gracewriting Workshop Recap

On Thursday, January 21, SMPS Oregon kicked off the new year with the “Fat Free Gracewriting” workshop. Judy Straalsund, Freedom Finder with Graceworks and head of their Gracewriting® Division, provided attendees with tools for quick and concise writing. Studies have shown that short and simple writing is most engaging for readers, but this can be difficult for business and technical writers.

One reason that business and technical writers struggle, Judy explained, is they tend to dive right into writing and frequently edit themselves while writing. This process can frustrate writers because they do not have clear goals for their writing. One way to organize the writing process is to break it into pre-writing, writing, and rewriting phases. During pre-writing, writers should spend time identifying their audience, their audience’s key issues, and how the written piece will address those issues. Then writers can begin writing, but they should resist the urge to make things perfect in the first draft. Once all the ideas are down on paper, writers can refer back to their pre-writing to organize and edit the final written piece. While these steps may feel unnecessary in a fast-paced, deadline-driven work environment, the resulting pieces are more tailored to target audiences and more valuable to organizations.

Next, Judy guided attendees through short editing exercises, identifying common writing errors and how to fix them. Attendees learned the difference between passive and active voice writing, what strong verbs are, and how to eliminate empty phrases. Throughout these exercises, Judy emphasized that writers should avoid what she calls “thesaurusitis”, which only clutters and confuses a written piece. She explained that technical writers tend to use complicated technical language that may be common in practice but are completely alien to readers. There is also a misconception that frequently repeated words are a sign of weak writing, but readers appreciate brevity and clarity over the range of vocabulary.

Finally, attendees took everything learned in the workshop and used it to edit a 130-word written piece full of repetitions and unnecessary information. In just five minutes, attendees edited the piece down to less than thirty words without losing the original message by focusing on what the reader needed to know to complete a specific task.

Attendees left the workshop with several editing tools and a better understanding of how to center their writing on readers rather than writers. Learn more about Graceworks or find additional writing resources on our website.

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