Writing for Business and Pleasure
Copyright by Stephen Wilbers

Five elements of effective communication:

A checklist


Timing of communication; choice of medium; tone and point of view (perspective, attitude, and relationship regarding audience, purpose, and material); recognition of audience (reader vs. writer orientation); direct vs. indirect presentation (ordering of evidence and conclusions); persuasive strategies and rhetorical appeals (logos, pathos, ethos)


□Timing and choice of medium are appropriate to the purpose, audience, and material.

□Tone is appropriate to the purpose, audience, and material.

□Material is made relevant to the reader (reader’s interests and concerns are recognized).

□Conclusions are presented directly (conclusion first, evidence last) to a sympathetic audience, indirectly (evidence first, conclusion last) to an unsympathetic or hostile audience.

□Persuasive strategy incorporates a mixture of rhetorical approaches (appeals to logic, feelings, and ethics or credibility).


Organization (logical arrangement and sequence); evidence and support (relevance, specificity, accuracy and sufficiency of detail); knowledge of subject and material; quality of perception, analysis, and insight


□Material is arranged in a logical and coherent sequence.

□Conclusion or closing restates the argument and identifies the action to be taken.

□Examples are relevant, specific, detailed, sufficient, and persuasive.

□Quotations support the argument.

□Handling of material demonstrates knowledge and insight.


Presentation of thesis or central argument (statement of purpose, delineation or narrowing of topic, relevance of subordinate or secondary arguments); word choice; technical language and jargon; structure (sentence, paragraph, document); coherence devices (organizational statement, repetition of words and phrases, progression from familiar to unfamiliar, topic and transitional sentences); textual markers (headings, highlighting, formatting features)


□Purpose or central idea is sufficiently limited for meaningful discussion.

□Purpose or central idea is stated clearly, usually in the opening.

□Organizational statement is offered, usually at the end of the opening.

□Subordinate ideas are effectively identified and related clearly to the main purpose or central idea.

□Language is clear, specific, accurate, and appropriate to the audience, purpose, and material.

□Word choice is clear, specific, accurate, unassuming, and free of clichés and misused jargon.

□Technical language and terms are defined and explained as needed (depending on knowledge of the audience).

□Sentences are free of ambiguity.

□Text is coherent, with new information linked to previously discussed information (ordered within sentences as “something old/something new”).

□Transitions between paragraphs are clear and helpful.

□Text is appropriately highlighted (bullets, paragraphing, boldface, italics, underlining, etc.) to engage the reader and reinforce the main points.


Word choice (economy, precision, and specificity of language and detail; abstract vs. concrete language; action verbs vs. linking or weak verbs with nominalizations; figures of speech: schemes and tropes); tone (personality and humor); active vs. passive voice; sentence variety


□Word choice is economical, clear, specific, accurate, unassuming, and free of clichés and misused jargon.

□Action verbs are preferred over weak verbs with nominalizations (as in recommend over make a recommendation).

□Language is appropriately concrete or abstract (signifying or not signifying things that can be perceived by the senses).

□Figurative language (metaphors and similes, as well as other tropes and schemes) enrich and deepen the argument.

□Active voice is preferred over passive voice (active voice is used to emphasize the performer of the action; passive voice is used to emphasize the receiver of the action).

□Sentences are free of wordiness and unnecessarily complex constructions.

□Variety in sentence structure and sentence length creates emphasis.

□Author’s values, personality and – when appropriate – humor are conveyed in a way that reinforces the message.


Rules and conventions of spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and idiom; style (appropriateness of word choice and level of formality to audience, purpose, and material); social and cultural appropriateness; accuracy in proofreading


□Spelling (including technical terms and proper names) is correct.

□Correct words are used to convey the intended meaning.

□Rules of grammar and syntax are followed, including pronoun-noun agreement, subject-verb agreement, appropriate verb tense, pronoun case, possessive forms, parallel construction, etc.

□Punctuation (particularly comma placement) reflects standard usage.

□Copy is free of mechanical errors and lapses in proofreading.

Home          Contents          What’s new          Presentations

Weekly error       Weekly tip       Weekly word       Column of the month       Books

“Better Writing in Six Weeks”
(weekly lessons by e-mail)

Weekly columns
(delivered to your inbox)