How do we sound energetic?

How do we sound energetic?

When we write with energy and pace, we’re clearer and more engaging. And this helps show how we’re making a difference.

We use active rather than passive language

Active language feels more human and persuasive. And it makes clear who’s doing what.
You’ll put words like ‘I’, ‘you’ and ‘we’ as well as the names of people and things at or near the start of sentences.

So, rather than... Say...
A letter will be sent. I'll write to you
Instructions can be found online. You can find instructions online.

Active writing keeps sentences short and it’s more personal and direct.

We lead the fight against lung disease. My visits to Breathe Easy groups inspire me. You’ll have more energy if you exercise.

You can tell passive writing if the ‘doer’ comes after the verb: The research team was led by David Strachan; More than 550,000 new diagnoses of lung disease are made each year; It has been estimated that up to two thirds of COPD cases remain undiagnosed.

Remember the zombie technique! If you can add ‘by zombies’ to the sentence and it makes sense, it’s passive writing.

We keep our sentences to 15-20 words

Vary the length of your sentences, but always aim to keep them between 15 and 20 words.

Very short sentences are good for making punchy points. Journalists use this technique a lot. Because it works.

For early career researchers, going to international conferences isn’t a luxury. It’s essential.

Make only one main point in a sentence, with maybe one or two related points.

Long sentences Short sentences
Passive smoking can increase your risk of cancer and other health problems, and is particularly  dangerous to children. Children and babies who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung problems such as asthma, and are at  risk of developing infections including pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections.

Passive smoking can increase your risk of cancer and other health problems. It’s particularly dangerous to children.

Children and babies who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to develop lung problems such as asthma. They are also at risk of developing infections including pneumonia, bronchitis and ear infections.

We keep our language fresh, and avoid clichés and jargon

Clichés

These are things you’ve heard or read, time and again. Because the cliché’s been used so often, we don’t take it in –  it just washes over us. If you can find fresh ways to express your meaning, it’ll encourage people to read on.

  • time for change
  • think outside the box
  • after a long battle with
  • value-added
  • back to the drawing board
  • steep learning curve
  • going forward
  • level playing field
  • right now
  • go the extra mile

Single words can become empty of meaning too:

  • sadly. Never use this – it’s lost any impact
  • stakeholders. Be specific: researchers, policy-makers, health care providers, health care professionals, patients and so on.
  • respiratory. Instead of a respiratory, try: lung, breathing

Instead of using generic words like ‘benefit’, ‘unique’ ‘lifechanging’ you could describe why something will benefit people, in what way it’s unique, how your life has changed.

Jargon

How often do we use ‘HCP’ or ‘CCG’ without thinking? Don’t assume that your audience will understand, even if they’re professionals.

Talking about ‘lung function’ may not be obvious to a nurse who isn’t a specialist in lung health. People think ‘chronic’ means all sorts of bad things, not just ‘long-term’.

Think about writing for someone who knows very little about the subject. Would you use these words in a conversation with someone you’ve just met?

So, rather than... Say...
Your lung function will be better if you give up Your lungs will work better if you give up
People with COPD have breathing difficulties People with COPD find it hard to breathe
 You might experience weight loss or ankle swelling You might lose weight or find that your ankles swell

Sometimes we can use jargon if we know our readers will understand it. But even then, ask yourself if every day English wouldn’t do just as well.