About Tamela M. Rich

From Charlotte, NC, Tamela writes books, articles, speeches and presentations for business professionals. From "the road" she writes about the people, places and experiences she discovers and the life lessons she learns from them. Invite her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event!

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Don’t Be So Punny

This Daily Show segment, while aimed at news shows, rings true for business communicators, too.


  1. Tamela,
    You really hit all the key points for good, clear business writing. I teach writing workshops on Wall Street to research analysts and investment bankers. I would say the vast majority of participants have two very hard habits to break:
    –One, they put their conclusions at the end of their documents
    As you note, that’s an academic hangover. Thesis, argument, conclusion. But readers want to know upfront what you think and then they’ll choose whether or not to read your argument..

    –Two, they start writing before they know what their main points are.
    Many people use their writing to figure out their points rather than sitting still (or taking a walk) to figure out their main points. Computers make it easy to start writing. Most people think that they can fix things later. But editing is so much work no one ever has the time to rewrite as extensively as needed. If writers can stop themselves from writing until they know their main points, the whole process is much quicker — and the end result much more powerful.

    I think everyone should keep The Elements of Style on their desks. I like the one with the intro by Roger Angell, which offers nice color on E.B.White & how hard he worked at writing.

  2. Thank you, Tamela. As always, you’ve posted something that is both useful and insightful. I always enjoy your blog – you’re on of the bloggers to watch, in my book!

  3. Tamela —

    Good, good stuff, and right on target. To expand on a couple of points:

    Use short words whenever possible (i.e., “about” for “approximately,” “start” for “commence,” etc.). This is especially important in this kind of writing because by its very nature, technical writing includes, well, technical terms.

    And speaking of short, if you’re writing for online media, keep sentences and paragraphs brief, and use bullets, lists, etc. (exactly like you’ve done above). Online readers are easily distracted and are even less inclined to take the time to really get into something. So you have to make it easy.

    Avoid two common structure problems: Noun strings (using a bunch of nouns as adjectives) and distance between subjects and verbs (keep it is small as possible). These pop up a lot in technical writing.

    I also want to really reinforce the case study recommendation. Stories work for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is they’re more engaging than general narrative prose. Beyond that, they have great credibility. And they break up the stream of facts, which invites readership.

    Again, terrific advice. Keep it coming.


  4. Great post, Tamela…as you know “What I Say” and “What You Hear” are not always the same. In tracking what draws me into reading AND remembering, it boils down to your list of pointers above. I try my best to cross the borders from my world into everyday language w/o dumbing it down…often tough to pull off. Thanks for the ideas…you’ve obviously been through this before!

  5. Francis St.Onge, CFP, EA


    This article and the Powerpoint ideas were greatly appreciated, I am trying to write my next newsletter and you have definitely made me rethink what I put in the newsletter.

    Sounds like I should send frequent short newsletters versus a long one infrequently.

  6. I am definitely bookmarking this page and sharing it with my friends.


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