By Ruth Appleton, Employment Development Manager
Changing our Culture
Sutton Council prides itself on green policies—caring for the environment, cutting out waste, offering value to the community. But like most councils in Britain, we have problems when we write. Our Members constantly complain there are too many long, complicated, dull committee reports. They are right. Last year we produced 1,300,000 sheets of paper in committee reports alone.
We are changing our culture, our way of working and how we write. Our first step was to discover just how good or bad our writing style had become and to set a benchmark to see how much we could improve.
Audit Highlights the Problem
We ran a style audit of a representative sample of council documents. The audit showed what everyone suspected—we were not the best writers in the world.
After the audit, a pilot group of 60 people went through the Electronic Writing Course and used the StyleWriter software.
The pilot has been so successful we turned to StyleWriter when we decided to tackle committee report writing. A training course on writing reports, with a key section on writing summaries, was designed and delivered.
Every senior departmental manager, including the Chief Executive, attended the training. They all came away with a new-found enthusiasm for clear writing and the tools and knowledge to put it into practice.
New Style Reports
We had a written guide to committee report format, content and style. In reforming the way we write committee reports, rather than having this printed and given to every report writer, we placed this information as part of our StyleWriter’s help screens. If any report writer needs information on a specific council aim or priority, how to write a summary or see the recommended layout of a report, it’s only a click of a mouse away.
Today we have a site license to use StyleWriter and an Electronic Writing Course. We plan to use the program to tackle letter writing and internal communications.
Councils can Improve Standards
For any other council wanting to improve writing standards, we learnt some valuable lessons.
Fewer than one in twenty people write in clear English.
You must invest the time and money in plain English to reap the rewards.
Training alone is not enough—you have to back it up with StyleWriter.
Senior managers must adopt plain English, attend training courses and use the software so they can lead by example.
Even the skeptics came out convinced.
How does StyleWriter Plain English software guarantee success?
To guarantee that everyone in an organization writes clearly, you need to change the communication culture, train staff and give them the tools to back up the training. This has proved impossible without software.
In the same way running a spelling checker on your word processor guarantees everyone writes without typing and spelling mistakes, plain English software can guarantee the benefits of clear writing. If necessary, organizations can immediately train all staff using our Electronic Writing Course (this provides staff with all the tips and techniques of top writers and editors; click here for details). Then, as a constant companion in every employee's word processor, StyleWriter backs up the training, continually showing each user how to edit his or her writing into a model of clear English; each employee runs StyleWriter through letters, memos and reports. And soon, drafting in plain English becomes the standard throughout the organization.
With large discounts for site licenses, StyleWriter is an affordable solution to a problem that costs your organization time and money. (Click here
for ordering information.)
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