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Tip – Every Word Counts. Even the Little Ones

When you are writing policies and procedures, job aids, and work instructions, clarity should always be your first consideration. Remember that people in your organization turn to the company procedures manuals and new employee orientation training guides for two main reasons: 1) they have no idea how to perform a task or 2) they are having difficulty with a tricky task and need to confirm the exact steps.

Every word counts and has a precise meaning, even the little ones such as a, an, the, one. These words known as articles mean very specific things. Notice how the meaning changes in the following sentence depending on which article you use:
There’s building on the corner.
There’s the building on the corner.
There’s one building on the corner.
Don’t leave out articles such as ana, or the to save space. Leaving them out, can confuse the reader and even lead to errors.

Example: Rotate the compass to center line.

Readers can’t tell if “center line” is a noun (the center line) or a verb with its object (center the line). Experienced workers (who often write the procedures for the employee manual) might know from past experience which meaning is correct, but imagine this is a new worker who has just completed new employee orientation training, but has never actually completed the task. That person will be forced to guess the meaning and could make a serious error as a result.

For clarity’s sake, write instead: Rotate the compass to center the line. or Rotate the compass to the center line.

For more tips, check out our other Writing Tips Posts and our webinar series.