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James Hurford

James Hurford

James Hurford
James Hurford | Corporate Trainer | Author of ‘How to write well’ and ‘How to speak well’
James specialises in training people in organisations ‘How to write well’ and ‘How to speak well’. With over 25 years of experience working for top international companies, he brings a vast amount of knowledge and expertise to every organisation he works with.

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Let’s simplify jargon and gobbledygook

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 10:16 Published in PR & Communications
Let’s simplify jargon and gobbledygook

It’s everywhere — in business, in government in organisations.


What’s scary is that 26% of executives admit to using expressions they don’t understand in meetings. And another research report showed that the thing people dislike most in their jobs is jargon.


The worst organisations for jargon:

  • Law
  • Financial services
  • IT
  • Science and medicine
  • Government

Organisations spend a lot of money on websites and emails with information that many people simply can’t understand.


It’s estimated that poor communications account for as much as 40% of the total costs of managing all business transactions.


The hidden costs of gobbledygook

Gobbledegook wastes time and money. Difficult documents and emails take longer to read and understand.

Paragraphs — the building blocks of writing

Thursday, 13 March 2014 08:32 Published in PR & Communications
Paragraphs — the building blocks of writing

 Paragraphs remain one for the most important parts of writing. They serve as containers for ideas and help break up large chunks of text, making your content easier to read. But, knowing how to write a good, well-structured paragraph can be little tricky.


There’s no set length for a paragraph. However, it is possible to have your paragraphs too long or too short. Here are some tips that will help you to get your paragraphs right:


  1. Carefully construct your paragraphs — good writing starts with good structure.
    Create a logical structure that leads the reader directly to the conclusions you want them to reach.


  1. Begin with an introductory sentence — this sets out the subject of the paragraph.
    The remainder of the paragraph should go on to explain or ‘unpack’ the initial sentence.


  1. No superfluous stuff — if it's not directly related to your introductory sentence, delete it or move it to another paragraph.


  1. Keep one idea to one paragraph — if you begin with one idea, don’t end with another or wander around different ideas.


  1. Split long paragraphs into shorter ones — it’s perfectly acceptable to begin a paragraph with a sentence connecting it to the previous paragraph.


  1. Make your paragraph flow — fit sentences together in a way that’s clear to your reader. Make them feel that they move easily from one sentence to the next, and that each coheres with the one before and after.


  1. Write shorter paragraphs — this will increase the clarity of your writing. Making it more concise and your arguments is easier to follow.


  1. Clear, logical and easy to understand — by breaking your ideas down into bite-size chunks they’re easier to understand.


  1. Opening paragraphs must grab attention — give a clear and concise reason why you are communicating and lead your reader on to wanting more.


  1. Closing paragraphs should finish strong — a call-to-action, summary or conclusion should be direct and to-the-point. Don’t waffle or pussy-foot around. Ask.


A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
— William Strunk, Jr. The Elements of Style.

The Comma – tough to master and easy to mess up

Saturday, 01 March 2014 12:30 Published in PR & Communications
The Comma – tough to master and easy to mess up

We’re dropping commas more than ever because much of our daily writing now consists of quick text messages and hastily typed emails.


Understanding when and when not to use commas can be very confusing. However, using commas correctly can take your writing to a higher level. And give it clarity.


Comma myths

  • Long sentences need a comma — a long sentence may be perfectly fine without commas. The length of a sentence doesn’t determine whether you need a comma.
  • You should add a comma wherever you pause — different readers pause or breathe in different places. Where you pause or breathe doesn’t reliably indicate where a comma belongs.
  • They’re impossible to figure out where they belong — most of the time, commas belong in predictable places. These rules will help you identify them.


When to use the comma

These six comma rules cover the ones you’re most likely to need in your everyday writing.

There are many rules for comma usage, but if you remember just these six rules, you should be on your way becoming a master of the comma:


1. To separate words in a list or series — separating items in a list helps clarify things:

The largest banks in South Africa are Standard Bank, FirstRand Bank, Nedbank and Absa.

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