by Sherry Roberts

Let Boilerplate Simplify Your Life

Make writing those proposals more bearable. Some writing in business is repetitive by necessity. Proposals, for example, often include waivers or standard paragraphs that must be repeated proposal after proposal.

In these cases, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Use boilerplate paragraphs. Boilerplate originated in newspapers. Materials that were frequently used — such as syndicated columns or mastheads — were kept in plate or typeset form in the composing room. Late at night, as the production staff raced against deadline to compose the pages of the newspaper, they used boilerplate to save time.

Create a folder for boilerplate text in your computer. Store copies of all the boilerplate paragraphs you use in proposals, press releases, reports, memos, emails, and letters in it. When you need to use one, simply copy the appropriate section and paste into your current document.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

“Fini” is not the way to close a press release. Editors like to be told when a story ends. Perhaps it dates back to all those years of studying the newswires, where an editor was expected to read a virtual parade of stories every night. Stories flew across the wire in a never-ending stream, and so, editors were trained to look for end marks.

The next time you send a press release to a newspaper or magazine indicate when the press release ends by typing an end mark after the last paragraph. Give the end mark its own line and center it. Editors will appreciate the gesture.

End marks that nearly all editors recognize are “30,” “#,” or “END.”

Writing: Dangerous Work?

In our business writing seminars, we sometimes run across people who truly believe that writing is a killer. We’ve always assured them they will survive writing those letters and memos, but after reading this newspaper typo we’re not so sure: “He is recovering from a near-fatal car accident that sent him into a comma.”

Nothing Beats Plain and Simple

What is plain writing? It is clear like a mountain stream. It is straightforward like a friend you can trust. Plain writing is easily understood, unpretentious, and pure. It doesn’t wear you out; it is easy to read and understand.

Plain writing has certain traits. If you examined the DNA of plain writing under a microscope, you’d find that plain writing:

  • States the purpose clearly.
  • Organizes major points.
  • Employs headings and lists.
  • Uses short sentences and paragraphs.
  • Avoids jargon.
  • Seeks to express, not impress.