Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review: The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a Professional ★★★★

The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking Like a ProfessionalMy rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this ebook for review from the author.

I consider myself to be something of a stickler for proper grammar, punctuation, spelling and capitalization. I have always had a knack for grammar, even though I am not an expert on the rules, and certainly don't know them upside down and backwards, I generally have a feel for them, and not to toot my own horn too much, I'm often right.

Even though I was interested in the book due to the subject matter, grammar is hardly exciting reading, so I was slightly nervous that the book might be dry, boring or tedious. It wasn't. I found the book to be interesting, informative, personable, and even funny at times. Yaffe sprinkled anecdotes throughout the text which lightened the tone of the book, and made it feel as if it was a friendly tutoring session rather than a pre-final lecture.

This book focused on expository writing, such as training documents, memos, articles, newsletters, etc, more than writing for entertainment or enjoyment. I am not a professional journalist or writer, but I do use written communication and presentations in my day-to-day work, and while I feel like I am a good communicator, I still feel as though I picked up some useful information here.

My favorite tip was the "inverted pyramid" and related tests. The inverted pyramid is a method of writing which structures your text into a lead-in section and then the supporting details in the body. The lead-in should contain all of the most important and informative information regarding the subject, and the body should contain the details which provide additional information. There are two related tests which go hand-in-hand with this method: the "Stop Reading Test" and the "Q&A Test".

The Stop Reading Test is designed to ensure that busy readers can glean as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, from your writing. The test helps to indicate how much of the article or text a person would have to read in order to obtain a full understanding of the topic -- the more they have to read, the more likely the text should be rewritten more concisely and to the point, so that a reader can stop reading after the first paragraph and still understand the entire text's purpose.

The Q&A Test is designed to answer potential questions in the body of the text to support the lead-in. As a writer adds sentences, they should anticipate questions that the reader may have, and answer them, so that by the end of the text, the reader has a full understanding of the information provided.

These are brilliant tips that I wish were used more often, especially in the workplace. I detest having to read through pages and pages of a document just to learn one bit of information that could have been explained in a paragraph-long brief up front. I wish that this technique was used more widely!

In addition to these, Yaffe's book contains many examples, exercises, tips and guidelines to help mold us into better communicators. This includes orally speaking and presenting information, which is just as important in the professional world as writing is. There are subtle differences that one should bear in mind between the different types of communication, because they are similar, but using only one set of methods for both will result in a failure to engage and interest your audience.

I found this book to be enlightening and informative, and with the exception of two typos, very well written and helpful. I would definitely recommend this to those people looking to improve their professional communication, both written and spoken.

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