Home > Documents > Effective Writting Reference

Effective Writting Reference

Date post: 19-Feb-2018
Author: vahombe
View: 223 times
Download: 0 times
Share this document with a friend
Embed Size (px)
of 35 /35
7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference http://slidepdf.com/reader/full/effective-writting-reference 1/35 KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7 Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 iii 4 August 2005 1.7 REFERENCE DOCUMENT GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE WRITING CONTENTS Section Page 1  INTRODUCTION 1  1.1 Planning the document 2 1.2 Recognising how readers read 4 1.3 Using effective structuring techniques 5 1.4  Choosing appropriate language 12  1.5 Adhering to accepted grammatical standards 17 1.6 Using punctuation effectively 24 1.7 Copyright 32 1.8 Bibliography 33 
  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 iii

    4 August 2005




    Section Page



    1.1 Planning the document 21.2 Recognising how readers read 41.3 Using effective structuring techniques 5

    1.4 Choosing appropriate language 121.5 Adhering to accepted grammatical standards 171.6 Using punctuation effectively 241.7 Copyright 321.8 Bibliography 33

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 1

    4 August 2005

    Guidelines for effective writing

    1 Introduction

    Effective writing is important in Kellogg Brown & Root Pty Ltd (KBR) because many

    of the companys deliverables are written documents. Indeed, sometimes they are the

    only visible product of a great deal of client expenditure.

    KBRs documents vary greatly in size and purpose. They range from small bids and

    reports through to major feasibility studies on which significant investment decisions

    will be based, multi-volume bids that will be reviewed in great detail, and

    environmental impact assessments that must be able to withstand intense public

    scrutiny. Letters and other types of correspondence also form an important element of

    the companys documentation.

    However, no matter what the size or purpose of a document, if it is to be credible the

    information must not only be accurate and appropriate but also be presented clearly,

    concisely and in a professional manner. In addition, the documents effectiveness will

    depend on whether it has been oriented towards the reader rather than the sender,

    which means that its structure, style and language must all be carefully considered.

    This chapter provides guidance on these matters:

    Section 1.1 on the planning stage, which is a crucial precursor to any effective


    Some fundamental issues relating to how readers absorb information are noted in

    Section 1.2. This section also provides advice in relation to appropriate sentence

    and word length for various audiences.

    Structuring is the topic of Section 1.3, which looks at effective methods of

    arranging information at the chapter, section, paragraph and sentence levels, as

    well as the significant part played by transitional elements.

    Styles of language are discussed in Section 1.4. This topic covers plain English,

    non-discriminatory and objective language, use of the active and passive voice, and

    ways of achieving brevity and precision in writing.

    Useful points of grammar and usage are set out in Section 1.5, while guidance onpunctuation is given in Section 1.6.

    Section 1.7 draws attention to copyright legislation, and the need to seek written

    permission to reproduce material.

    Finally, Section 1.8 suggests some reference books for further reading on the

    subjects covered in this document.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 2

    4 August 2005


    In addition to its technical content, the main features of a document that are essential

    to consider at the outset are:

    its purpose

    the audience organisation of the topic



    These are discussed further in the following sections.

    Documenting the decisions taken on these matters at this initial stage will save you

    considerable time that would otherwise be necessary later to achieve an appropriate

    and consistent focus, structure and style.

    1.1.1 Purpose of the document

    Before starting to draft a document, it is advisable to set down in a single sentence the

    documents essential purpose. (This task is not always as straightforward as it may

    seem.) If more than one author is involved, there needs to be agreement on this

    statement before any text is produced, as it will serve as the controlling focus for the

    entire document. Then repeat the exercise for each chapter.

    1.1.2 Assessment of audience

    To pitch the document successfully at the appropriate level, you will need to consider

    the predicted audience, talking into account:

    the extent of knowledge of the topic that your readers are likely to have;

    the expected range of attitudes and any misconceptions about the topic amongst

    this readership;

    the elements that will probably be of most interest to them;

    the ways in which they are likely to use the document. For example:

    Is it likely to be read consecutively from beginning to end by most readers? Or

    will various groups be interested only in certain sections (which might therefore

    need to be at least partly self-contained)? Or will some readers be seeking

    answers to only a few specific questions (which may mean that an index or a

    very detailed list of contents may be necessary)?

    Is it large enough to require a summary? If so, to what readership will this be

    directed? Does the summary need to be produced separately?

    Will the document be read only once or twice, or will it be used as a constant


  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 3

    4 August 2005

    Based on this assessment, you will then be able to make decisions on:

    the amount of background material that will need to be included;

    the extent of discussion needed in the document about the context and significance

    of various elements;

    the organisation and emphasis that will best match the audiences expectations andspecific interests;

    the level of technical language that should be used, and whether a glossary and

    explanations of technical terms and abbreviations will be needed;

    an appropriate style of presentation and the extent of illustrative material needed;

    the range of aids that would be most suitable for accessing information: for

    example, the extent of headings and lists of contents, cross-referencing,

    introductions to chapters and sections, appendices and an index.

    1.1.3 Organising the contents

    Before detailed drafting of the text begins, it is most important to draw up acomprehensive list of contents incorporating all levels of proposed headings. This

    should be supported by a summary paragraph describing the scope and length of the

    discussion proposed for each section and subsection.

    This analysis should enable you to check that the emphasis is appropriate and that

    there is a logical sequence of ideas (from the readers point of view as well as your

    own). It should also draw attention to any inbuilt repetition. Continual repetition

    needs to be avoided, as it can make even the most interesting statement appear

    hackneyed. Any major discrepancies between sections in terms of size and level of

    detail should also be reviewed at this stage. For instance, does the length of each

    section relate to its overall significance? Would some of the information be better

    relegated to an appendix?

    Section 1.3 discusses the structuring of documents in further detail.

    1.1.4 Language

    The two most important aspects of language that you should consider at the planning

    stage are:

    the level of readers technical knowledge: this will determine the extent of

    explanations required in the text, and also form the basis for the progressive

    development of a glossary where necessary;

    consistency in terminology: where there could be alternative terms for the same

    thing, select one as the standard to prevent confusion. For large reports with

    multiple authors it is important to establish a style sheet at the outset, setting out

    the style that is to be followed for particular words, phrases or titles, including their

    spelling, capitalisation and hyphenation. This style sheet should be updated

    progressively throughout the job.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 4

    4 August 2005

    1.1.5 Design

    The effectiveness of text can be dramatically enhanced by the appropriate use of

    illustrations. If a graphic designer is to be involved on the document, you should

    consult together at the planning stage to establish overall design themes, illustration

    layouts and production standards.


    To convey information effectively, you must first understand the way in which readers

    approach documents and how they absorb information.

    Context and patterning

    A readers ability to understand a given text is profoundly affected by the context and

    patterning of the information. This is because:

    readers make sense of an item of information based on what precedes and follows

    it, and on what they already know, or assume, about the topic;

    readers more readily absorb unfamiliar information if it is accompanied byexamples related to their own experience;

    readers expect information to be provided in logical, conventional patterns.

    Breaking these patterns hampers understanding.

    Readers attention spans

    Another important point to remember is that a readers interest is greatest at the

    beginning and end of an item, but tends to wane in the middle. This applies to the

    document as a whole, as well as to each component part (section, paragraph and


    On average, readers also find it easier to understand:

    shorter sentences (up to about fifteen words)

    shorter words (one to two syllables)

    categories that contain fewer than eight items.

    Readability indexes

    Many readability indexes have been developed aimed at differentiating between the

    average reading abilities of people of different ages and with different levels of

    education. Various formulas are used to estimate the reading difficulty of text.

    However, these are generally based on the number of syllables in words and the

    number of words in sentences.

    While recommendations based on these indexes vary, the following may be taken as a

    very general guide:

    Average sentence length: the majority of adult readers are likely to understand text

    with an average sentence length (judged over ten sentences) of between ten and

    nineteen words. Less than 20 per cent of readers are likely to understand text with

    an average sentence length of more than twenty-eight words.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 5

    4 August 2005

    Percentage of long words: the majority of adult readers may have difficulty in

    understanding text where the proportion of words of three syllables or more

    exceeds 15 per cent (judged over one hundred words).

    These indexes should not, however, be used alone as a guide to effective writing. This

    is because many other factors must be taken into account. Such factors include the

    familiarity of the words used, the clarity of sentence construction, the use of propergrammar and punctuation, the effectiveness of transitions, the use of examples and

    illustrations, the use of headings and a clear heading hierarchy, and the type of format

    adopted. Nevertheless, such indexes can provide a helpful reminder to keep things as

    simple and straightforward as possiblein the interests of all your readers.


    1.3.1 Hierarchical sequence of information

    The standard sequence recommended for presenting information is hierarchical:

    moving from the general to the particular or from the main idea to the details. This is

    because readers need to understand the direction of the main argument before comingto grips with the detailed supporting arguments.

    This hierarchical sequence should be followed not only in the overall structure of the

    document but also at the level of each section and paragraph. Table 1.1 compares an

    example of a paragraph demonstrating this hierarchical development with one where

    the progression has been ignored.

    Within this general hierarchical pattern, you may wish to use an inductive or deductive

    approachor a combination (where you select the most relevant approach for each

    paragraph or section). An example of an outline sequence of information for each

    type is as follows:

    Inductive approach: set the scene; then describe the details of the situation, chain

    of events, problems or proposals; and finish with a conclusion or


    Deductive approach: announce the main proposition or conclusion at the

    beginning, and then detail the supporting arguments.

    Table 1 Hierarchical sequence of information

    Compare the following two descriptions of the proposed location of a golf course:

    Non-hierarchical: Greygums Valley is oriented in a northsouth direction and is drained to thesouth-west by Rocky Creek. The valley is about 1,200 m long, while its widthvaries from approximately 500 m to 700 m. The creek-line is located to the east ofthe valleys centre. The valley is contained by the ridge in Neighbourhood D and

    the Roberts Drive arterial corridor. The golf course would occupy a corridor about300 m wide along the valley floor.

    Hierarchical: The golf course would occupy a corridor approximately 300 m wide along thefloor of Greygums Valley. This valley is contained by the ridge in NeighbourhoodD and the Roberts Drive arterial corridor. Oriented in a northsouth direction.Greygums Valley is about 1,200 m long and between 500 m to 700 m wide. It isdrained to the south-west by Rocky Creek, which runs along the eastern side of thevalley.

    Reminder: ideas presented in a hierarchical manner (moving from the main point to the supporting detail, or from the

    general to the particular) are easier to understand.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 6

    4 August 2005

    1.3.2 Thematic structures

    Corresponding sections of a document should be unified by a common theme, which

    is usually reflected in the section headings. Some conventional thematic structures

    that are frequently relevant for KBR include:

    cause (or proposal) and effect

    steps in a process


    order of importance

    geographical division

    discipline category.

    You may find that one thematic type is appropriate at, say, a chapter level, while other

    types may be more suitable at section and subsection levels. It is important, however,

    to maintain consistency between corresponding chapters or sections.

    1.3.3 Typical organisation

    Bearing these recommendations in mind, a typical structure for an effective report

    should therefore comprise the following elements:

    Summary: this is usually placed at the front of a report of more than about fifteen

    pages, to highlight the principal findings and recommendations:

    Often the readership for the summary will be different from that for the full

    report. If so, ensure that the summarys focus and emphasis anticipate the

    particular needs of these readers.

    In developing the summary, you should also remember that it is a condensation,

    not a word-for-word repetition, of sections of the text.

    Avoid the use of the inflated term Executive summary for the title. The

    simple title of Summary is more appropriate from a plain English viewpoint.

    Introduction: this generally covers the context, purpose, scope and shape of the

    document, and thus serves an entirely different purpose from that of the summary.

    Main body of the report: this presents an analysis of the topic along the chosen

    thematic lines. Remember that, in addition to raw data, you should be imparting

    knowledge, which is a synthesis of this information.

    Conclusion: this usually contains an interpretation of the results in terms of their

    significance, and the amalgamated conclusions. It may also include

    recommendations for action, although if these are lengthy you may prefer to

    transfer them to a final chapter for further emphasis.

    Appendices: these contain information that is subsidiary to, or more detailed than

    required for, the body of the document. Such separation ensures that the main

    focus of the report does not become diffused. It also enables easy reference to

    detailed information that may be relevant to several different sections of the text.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 7

    4 August 2005

    Sometimes, you may also consider the following elements to be appropriate:

    Foreword: this is written by someone other than the author (for example a

    government minister) to support the document and explain its context. It is placed

    before the contents lists.

    Preface: this provides information relating to the preparation of the work, and

    immediately follows the contents lists.

    1.3.4 Grouping and signposting material

    You can greatly clarify and reinforce meaning within text by grouping related ideas

    together and incorporating signposts throughout the document. Some helpful

    techniques are described below.

    Logical divisions

    Paragraphs and sentences are the basic units marking logical divisions in written text.

    A paragraph should indicate a distinct, closely related group of thoughts (a single

    idea), while a sentence usually contains only one thought. Careful structuring ofparagraphs and sentences is a great aid to clarity.

    Whenever possible, avoid constructing very long paragraphs, as readers tend to get

    lost in the detail. They also appreciate the visual rest between paragraphs. On the

    other hand, short single-sentence paragraphs usually betray a lack of logical flow and

    should also be avoided. (Nevertheless, exceptions are sometimes appropriate: for

    example in instruction manuals or for the occasional, unavoidably brief lead-in

    paragraph.) A paragraph of three to five sentences is usually considered an ideal


    Sentences should only be as long as they need to be: to contain the governing idea,

    any essential modifiers, and any bridging words or phrases necessary to provide links

    between thoughts. A useful rule is to shorten your sentences in proportion to thecomplexity or abstract nature of your subject.

    Try also to achieve a balance between short and longer sentences. Such rhythm adds

    variety and a forward momentum to the text. A short sentence surrounded by longer

    ones can also help to draw attention to its significance.

    Headings and subheadings

    By using appropriate heading categories, you can:

    illustrate the document structure (a bit like a road map)

    provide signposts for readers seeking specific information

    break up information into clearly defined, more easily absorbed pieces

    alert the reader to what is to follow.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 8

    4 August 2005

    Successful headings are:

    brief (ideally five or fewer words)

    as informative as possible within the constraints of brevity

    parallel in structure (see Table 1.2 for examples).

    Table 2 Parallelism in headings

    Non-parallel Parallel


    3.6.1 Power supply requirements 3.6.1 Electricity

    3.6.2 Construction of a gas pipeline 3.6.2 Natural gas

    3.6.3 Water 3.6.3 Water

    3.6.4 Review of sewerage options 3.6.4 Sewerage

    Reminder Ensure the structure is consistent within a series of headings: each item should relate to the main heading in

    a logical manner, and be parallel in construction.

    Generally, readers do not recognise a heading and the first sentence on the following

    line as a single linked unit. Ensure, therefore, that the meaning in the first sentenceunder a heading is complete, and does not require reference back to the heading for

    clarification. (A run-on heading that has the following text on the same line usually

    does not present the same sort of problem.) Table 1.3 presents some examples.

    Table 3 Correlation between headings and initial text

    Confusing: 6.1, Operational considerations

    The most important is accessibility to the C6D.

    Clear: 6.1, Operational considerations

    Accessibility to the CBD is the most important factor in terms of operationaleffectiveness.

    Clear: Operational considerations: Accessibility to the CBD is the most important of theseconsiderations.

    Reminder: Unless text follows a run-on heading, ensure that the first sentence does not require reference back to the

    heading in order to make sense.

    Remembering that a readers attention begins to wander when more than about seven

    elements are contained within one category, try to ensure that groups of headings do

    not exceed this span. At times this may be unavoidable. However, before accepting

    such a situation, think about whether you could group them in another way. Perhaps a

    very long string of chapter headings could be grouped into parts (Part A, Part B, etc.).

    Or a lengthy series of third order headings (those with three-digit numbering) might

    benefit from some amalgamation.

    Whatever number of headings you choose, remember to ensure that there are at least

    two within the same heading hierarchy. (For example, if there is a Section 1.2.1, there

    must always be a Section 1.2.2.) Be alert to the risk, particularly when transferring

    material during redrafting, of leaving a single heading isolated.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 9

    4 August 2005

    On the other hand, a clumsy impression is given if you group a series of headings

    without any intervening text. Never use more than two headings consecutively

    without interspersing some text; indeed it is preferable to have text between every

    level of heading. Also, never have a series of bullet subparagraphs or a list

    immediately following a heading without some introductory text.

    By indicating the route and creating frequent stops along the way, headings do muchto encourage readers to continue. Given the vital roles they play, it is difficult to have

    too many headings in a long technical document.

    Prefacing information

    Another useful signposting technique is to provide an introductory statement at the

    beginning of a sectionparticularly if the section (or series of sections) is lengthy or

    the topic is complex. Such statements alert readers to what is to follow, and help

    establish the framework for the subsequent detail. Such introductions are usually

    based on one or more of the following patterns:

    an introduction to the subject of the rest of the section;

    an indication of the significance of the following detail;

    an indication of the relationship between the following section and the preceding


    Introductory sentences or phrases can play a similarly helpful role at the beginning of


    Such prefatory material at the beginning of a chapter or section does not usually

    require a separate heading. However, if you do insert a title, ensure it is something

    more specific to its particular content than Introduction. This is because headings

    entitled Introduction (and for that matter Conclusion or Recommendations)

    appearing at random through the body of a document undermine the logical

    progression of the documents structurewhich should be clearly apparent from the

    list of headings. To avoid such confusion, a document should have only one section

    headed Introduction and one Conclusion.

    There are other techniques for highlighting what is to come, such as boxed summaries,

    perhaps in point form, at the beginning of chapters or alongside major section breaks.

    A similar technique can be used at the end of chapters to summarise what has gone

    before. Another approach is to place summary sentences or points at strategic

    intervals throughout the document in a very wide left margin. However, such

    techniques must be used very carefully and consistently throughout a document and

    must be supported by specific page designs if they are to be successful.

    Bridging words and phrases

    In addition to using signposting at the beginning of sections to indicate what is to

    come, effective writers also use a range of bridging words and phrases to indicate

    transitions and relationships within sections: between one idea and the next; between

    one paragraph and the next; between and within sentences.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 10

    4 August 2005

    Table 1.4 lists some common bridging words and phrases, which you may find helpful

    when seeking precision and variety to underline these logical links. This list is far

    from exhaustive. However, the fact that there are so many different options and subtle

    distinctions available does illustrate the vital role these connective words play in

    aiding clarity.


    Where there is a series of points to be made, bullets can effectively highlight each

    point and its relationship to the whole and to the other component parts. When using

    this format, ensure that:

    there is more than one bullet item or subparagraph in each series;

    the series is preceded by a lead-in sentence or clause;

    the text in each item or subparagraph is in parallel format, and each flows logically

    from the lead-in sentence or clause.

    Unlike headings, the use of bullet items or subparagraphs can be overdone at times. If

    this seems likely, vary your approach by keeping some of the shorter series within atraditional sentence framework.

    Table 4 Some common bridging words and phrases

    To indicate supporting detail:

    and such

    further (or furthermore) just as

    for instance similarly

    for example another

    in particular in addition

    also not only; but also

    as well as

    To indicate cause and effect or sequence:

    so since

    because given that

    therefore this leads to

    as a result of this means that

    as a consequence (or consequently) one effect has been

    for this reason subsequent(ly)

    then following

    hence next

    in order to first(ly); second(ly)

    To indicate comparisons and contrasts:

    but even though

    either; or neverthelessneither; nor on the one hand; on the other hand

    although in comparison with

    however in (or by) contrast

    otherwise while

    rather whereas

    despite yet


    Reminder: Use bridging words or phrases to indicate logical relationships between ideas.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 11

    4 August 2005


    Cross-referencing is a very helpful device for:

    clarifying text by indicating related information

    avoiding unnecessary repetition.

    In addition, cross-referencing should always be used to draw attention to any figures

    or tables immediately before these appear in the text.

    1.3.5 Placement of emphasis

    As pointed out in Section 1.2, a readers attention is generally focused on the

    beginning and end of a sentence, paragraph and section, with this focus often waning

    in the middle. Effective writers take this pattern into account when structuring text.

    In addition to using the signposting discussed above to set the right expectations, you

    should therefore also place the prime information either near the beginning or at the

    end of a sentence, paragraph or section. If the main idea is set in the middle of a long

    sentence or paragraph, it can become buried.

    1.3.6 Providing familiar contexts

    Being able to relate new information to what they already know is another crucial

    factor in readers abilities to understand complex, unfamiliar data. When presenting

    such material, ensure that the progression of logical steps from more familiar

    information has been highlighted and that the relevance of the discussion is carefully

    explained. In addition, seek opportunities to supplement it with:

    comparisons, analogies or examples related to your readers experience

    clear explanations of any unfamiliar terms and concepts (see also Section 1.4.2).

    1.3.7 Illustrating text

    The use of relevant tables and illustrations (such as diagrams, charts and graphs) can

    be a great boon for the reader. They can dramatically clarify text, provide visual

    relief, and serve as quick points of reference. However, three cardinal rules need to be

    borne in mind:

    Balance the information between formats:

    It is important that illustrations and tables complement, rather then merely

    replicate, the information presented in the text. Usually, greater detail is

    presented in a table or figure. At times, however, this balance may be reversed,

    with the table or illustration being used as a summary device or as an example.

    Either method can be effective, as long as it adds to the readers knowledge.

    Explain the relevance:

    The discussion on cross-referencing in Section 1.3.4 draws attention to the need

    to refer to illustrations and tables before their appearance. It is important also to

    ensureeither in this initial reference or in later more detailed discussion in the

    textthat the relevance of the main points that have been illustrated is clear to

    the reader.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 12

    4 August 2005

    Use parallel formats for comparisons:

    Where similar types of information are being presented in a series of tables or

    illustrations, ensure that the same design layout is used for each. As with

    information series in text, readers will find comparisons much easier to make if

    the information is presented in a predictable manner.


    Techniques for enhancing reader comprehension need to be applied not only at the

    structural level as discussed above, but also at the more detailed level of language.

    This section looks at the types of words and ways of using them that best suit the style

    and purpose of the documents.

    1.4.1 Plain English

    Governments have been emphasising the need to use plain English in documents,

    rather than officialese. But what exactly is plain English? Is it only suitable for non-

    technical subjects? Does it imply over simplifications that could jeopardise the

    accuracy of technical writing?

    Well, the answer is no on both accounts. As Robert Eagleson explains in Writing in

    plain English (1990, pp. 4-5):

    Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are

    necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted,

    sentence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of the English


    Writers of plain English documents use language their audience can understand, and

    ensure that their documents are complete and accurate statements of their topics. They

    do not leave out important details, nor do they make remarks that are loose or


    Plain English reveals that you know what you are about, that you are in control of your

    subject and that you have a sympathy with your audience. It marks you as a


    In other words, plain English is not new. It is merely good, strong, functional

    language that is suited to the audience, and as such should be used by all KBR writers.

    To help you check that your writing meets this standard, advice is given in the

    following sections on:

    choosing language that is appropriate, non-discriminatory and effective

    tightening sentence construction, so that each word counts.

    1.4.2 Appropriate language


    Of the 25,000 or so words listed in common English dictionaries, about 3,000 are

    employed in general day-to-day communication. However, the educated professional

    has a latent vocabulary (i.e. words that he or she readily understands) of about 10,000

    to 12,000 words.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 13

    4 August 2005

    From this rich source, choose strong, concrete words that convey exactly what you

    mean rather than vague generalisations, overused trendy terms, unnecessary jargon,

    euphemisms, pompous language, clichs or redundant phrases. Such precision is the

    hallmark of all good writers.


    Wherever possible, be careful also to choose words that will be familiar to the

    audience. If specific technical meanings preclude this in a document directed to a

    more general audience, explain the technical term on first use (and include a glossary

    if there are many such terms in the document).

    Similarly, avoid using acronyms or abbreviations that are likely to be unfamiliar to

    readers. The only circumstance that can justify the use of such unfamiliar shorthand

    is where the term is likely to occur so frequently that its abbreviation is necessary to

    avoid tedious repetition. This would not be the case where the term is likely to occur

    only two or three times in a document, or at widely spaced intervals. The criterion

    should always be:

    What will be easier for the reader to understand?

    rather than:

    What is easier for the writer?

    Objective, non-discriminatory language

    Once again, if you always have your readers in mind, you will find it easy to choose

    language that will not cause offence. Australian policy also requires the use of non-

    discriminatory language in all its documentation.

    This means using gender-neutral terms in all KBR documentation wherever relevant,

    and particularly for activities, occupations and job titles. For example, such

    expressions as man-hours, man-power, man-made, draftsman and man the

    phones can be replaced, respectively, by work hours (or staff hours, person

    hours), personnel, artificial, drafter and answer the phones.

    Care also needs to be taken to avoid using male pronouns (he, him, his) in contexts

    where both males and females could be involved. Alternatives available are to:

    use he or she, or they

    convert the sentence into the plural (and use they)

    recast the sentence to use another pronoun (you, I or we)

    rewrite to avoid pronouns altogether

    repeat the noun.

    Table 1.5 demonstrates the use of some of these alternatives.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 14

    4 August 2005

    Table 5 Gender-neutral language


    The Project Supervisor is responsible for the quality of his project teams work.

    Some gender-neutral alternatives:

    Use he or she: The Project Supervisor is responsible for thequality of the work of his or her project team.

    Recast the sentence in the plural: Project Supervisors are responsible for the qualityof their project teams work.

    Recast the sentence to avoid pronouns: The quality of the project teams work is theresponsibility of the Project Supervisor.

    Repeat the noun: The quality of the work of the Project Supervisorsteam rests with the Project Supervisor.

    Reminder: A professional firm should use objective, non-discriminatory language in all its documents.

    For business purposes, use the title Ms in addresses, unless a womans marital status

    and her preferred title are known.

    It is assumed that writers in a professional company would not need to be reminded

    about avoiding other stereotypical language relating, for example, to race, religion,

    culture, age or disabilities.

    1.4.3 Careful sentence construction

    Unnecessarily sprawling sentences are tedious to read, confusing and inefficient.

    Good writers always review their sentences to see how they can tighten and trim each

    one, so that the focus remains crisp. Some useful strategies are discussed below.

    Delete every word that does not contribute to the meaning

    It has been estimated that up to 30 per cent of words in most communications are

    unnecessary. Ensure that you have said what you want to say as simply and directly

    as possible, and that your sentences do not contain:

    empty or redundant words or phrases (e.g. past experience, combine together,

    at this point in time, in close proximity to);

    circumlocutions (e.g. regarding the matter ofinstead, use about);

    indirect noun clauses where more direct verbs could be substituted, as in:

    perform an investigation of (use investigate);

    undertake an analysis of (use analyse).

    Keep related words together

    Table 1.6 provides examples of two common traps to avoid. These are:

    separating modifying phrases or clauses from their subjects, as such separation can

    cause ambiguity;

    prefacing a noun or verb with a long string of descriptive words, or combining a

    lengthy series of nouns, both of which result in turgid prose and weaken the logical


  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 15

    4 August 2005

    Table 6 Misplaced modifiers

    An example of a modifying phrase separated from its subject:

    The committee noted that there would be continuing public opposition to the proposeddevelopment in its report.

    The revision unites the logically related words and removes ambiguity:

    The committee noted in its report that there would be continuing public opposition to the

    proposed development.

    An example of an unbroken string of nouns:

    The outline development plan land package release conditions are set out in the attachment.

    The revision clarifies the meaning by breaking the series into discrete logical units:

    The release conditions for land packages stipulated in the outline development plan are set outin the attachment.

    Reminder: Keep related words together and clarify relationships.

    Clarity can also be affected if the placement of certain words is not sufficiently close

    to the words they modify. This is particularly the case with expressions of comparison

    such as:



    not only...but also.

    Notice, for instance, the subtle difference in meaning between the following two


    Access was denied to both visitors and staffonly two visitors?

    Access was denied both to visitors and to staffmore general.

    These examples also demonstrate the need for parallelism in such constructions. The

    words following each of these comparative words should be mirrored grammatically:

    if the first of the pair of comparative words is followed by a noun, or by a verb, phraseor clause, then the same type of construction should be repeated after the second. For


    The site not only was covered in rubble but also was partially flooded


    The site was covered not only in rubble but also was partially flooded.

    Revise sprawling sentences

    While there is nothing inherently wrong with a long sentence, make sure that it is

    balanced by shorter sentences to vary the rhythm, and that its focus and meaning are

    entirely clear. Frequently the focus can be improved by splitting a long sentence intotwo, as demonstrated in Table 1.7.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 16

    4 August 2005

    Table 7 Sprawling sentences

    The following sentence would benefit from a tighter focus:

    As the concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere is a function of the quantity of theseemissions and the rate of their dispersion and dilution as governed by weather conditions,improvements in air quality can only be achieved by reducing the quantity of emissions at theirvarious sources.

    Breaking the sentence into two would help:The concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere is a function of the quantity of these emissionsand the rate of their dispersion and dilution as governed by weather conditions. Improvements inair quality can therefore only be achieved by reducing the quantity of emissions at their varioussources.

    Further internal punctuation and minor rewording to add emphasis would highlight the meaning evenmore:

    The concentration of pollutants in the atmosphere is determined by two factors: the quantity ofthese emissions, and the rate of their dispersion and dilution as governed by weather conditions.Improvements in air quality can therefore only be achieved by reducing the quantity of emissionsat their various sources.

    Reminder: Check that your writing does not consist primarily of long, complex sentences, as they can cloud the focus.

    Unnecessary reliance on the passive voice can also result in sentence sprawl.

    (A passive verb consists of a part of the verb to be followed by a past participle: forexample have been considered.) There is a tradition in science and engineering as

    well as in organisational writing of using the passive voice, which has the effect of

    emphasising the process and the object, rather than the agent. This is often entirely

    appropriate in the context of an impersonal report, as in:

    Different growth rates were assumed for the assessment.

    At other times, however, it can be unnecessarily indirect and wordy. For example:

    A decision was reached by the Board to adopt the proposal

    could be stated more purposefully and concisely using an active verb:

    The Board adopted the proposal.

    Passive constructions may also cause ambiguity by submerging responsibility for an

    action. Compare:

    It was decided that no further investigations should be undertaken


    The client decided that no further investigations should be undertaken.

    While objectivity may require a public report to be couched in an impersonal style,

    choosing active verbs in preference to passives wherever possible will result in a more

    direct, concise and readable report.

    In documents other than such reports there is less justification for passive

    constructions. Correspondence, for example, is often best if written in the active

    voice, with first and second person pronouns (we, you) being used where

    appropriate rather than the impersonal it. Compare the directness of:

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 17

    4 August 2005

    We recommend that you underpin the structure immediately


    It is recommended that immediate action be taken to underpin the structure.

    Decide on the appropriate style of pronouns at the beginning of your writing task, and

    keep to that style wherever possible throughout the document. And ensure that youkeep the focus of your sentences clear by avoiding rambling constructions.


    Sound grammar is importantand not only because it helps to clarify meaning.

    Grammatical lapses are also likely to distract readers from the content of the text.

    Such flaws indicate a lack of professional care in document preparation, which in turn

    influences readers perceptions of the technical competency of the work.

    On the assumption that KBRs technical authors will all have a working knowledge of

    the general rules of grammar governing parts of speech and sentence construction, this

    section deals only with grammatical mistakes that are most commonly found in report


    These may be categorised as:

    lack of agreement between verb and subject

    word pairs with frequently confused meanings

    dilemmas relating to certain grammatical rules

    problems with prepositions, articles and pronouns.

    Some other grammatical difficulties are also discussed in Section 1.6, Using

    Punctuation Effectively.

    The publication details for quotations given in the following sections are contained inSection 1.8, Bibliography.

    1.5.1 Agreement between subject and verb

    A singular verb should be used with a singular subject:

    The building was tall

    while a plural verb should be used with a plural subject:

    The buildings were tall.

    However, this seemingly straightforward rule often presents writers with problems

    when using:

    collective nouns (such as company, committee, group and army);

    compound subjects, particularly when separated by intervening text;

    certain words (such as number, total, none and data) that may be used with either a

    singular or a plural verb.

    Relevant advice is presented below.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 18

    4 August 2005

    Collective nouns

    Collective nouns are treated as singular unless the context indicates that the collective

    is not acting as a unit. For example:

    The company intends to expand its holdings in the communications industry.

    The Board of Directors disagree about the timing of the expansion, with somemembers recommending a six-month delay.

    KBR follows this convention relating to collective nouns by treating all company and

    institutional names as singular.

    Compound subjects

    Care needs to be taken with compound subjects. Where they are joined by and, they

    usually take a plural verb:

    The client and the subconsultant were invited to attend.

    Where or or nor joins the two subjects, they are usually treated as singular:

    Neither the client nor the subconsultant was invited.

    However, if one of the two subjects is plural, use a plural verb:

    Either the client or the contractors are liable.

    Where the subject is qualified by further subsidiary information as in the examples

    below, the singular is used because the additional information is not an integral part of

    the subject:

    The client, as well as the contractor, was unhappy with the ruling.

    The tractor, in addition to the other site trucks, was parked beside the shed.

    Mistakes also frequently occur where intervening text separates the compound subjectfrom the verb, or where the various elements of the compound subject are separated

    from each other, as in the following examples:

    The design and alignment of the traffic relief route to be constructed alongside

    Nelligen Creek was required to meet specified environmental criteria. (Wrong:

    use were not was.)

    Integration of the route with the existing highway, located 2 km further to the east,

    and provision of a connecting road was deferred for budgetary reasons. (Wrong:

    use were not was.)

    Words taking singular or plural verbs

    Some words may take either a singular or a plural verb depending on the context. The

    word number is one of these. Use a singular verb for the number and a plural verb

    for a number:

    The number of cars involved was six.

    A number of cars were involved.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 19

    4 August 2005

    For other words of quantity such as total, majority, per cent and none, the

    context in which they occur determines the verb form that should be used. For


    The total was found to be twelve.

    A majority is/are in favour of the decision.

    The majority of new staff like the range of work involved.

    Ten per cent of the equipment was obsolete.

    Ten per cent of the graduates were unfamiliar with the problem.

    None of the report is difficult to understand.

    None of the materials were found to be defective.

    None of the group was/were involved.

    Usage is changing for some words such as data and media, and grammarians are

    divided on whether these words should be treated as singular or plural. The

    convention KBR follows is to use a plural verb with both of these words, because thisis the first preference of The concise Oxford dictionary (1992 edition)which has

    been set as the standard for the company. Hence, use:

    The data show a trend towards increasing rates of failure.

    The media are concentrating on the issue.

    1.5.2 Frequently confused words

    There are various pairs of words that are superficially similar but have quite different

    meanings. Confusion can arise, for example, between words that sound similar but are

    spelt differently, such as:


    advise/advice foreword/forward

    canvas/canvass formally/formerly

    complement/compliment its/its

    council/counsel licence/license

    dependent/dependant practice/practise

    discreet/discrete principal/principle

    enquire/inquire stationery/stationary

    ensure/insure story/storey

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 20

    4 August 2005

    There are other pairs of words that sound less alike but that nevertheless continue to

    cause confusion between their quite distinct meanings. Examples are:

    adverse/averse full/fulsome

    alternate(ly)/alternative(ly) his toric/historical

    anticipate/expect imply/infer

    assure/ensure impractical/impracticable

    biannual/biennial lead/led

    continual/continuous militate/mitigate

    disinterested/uninterested precede/proceed

    economic/economical regretfully/regrettably

    fewer/less than sewage/sewerage

    flammable/inflammable viable/feasible

    The different meanings of each of these word pairs are explained in Section 3 ofKBRs Style Guide, Australia.

    1.5.3 Some grammatical misconceptions

    There is a widespread belief about the existence of certain grammatical rules that

    forbid such practices as:

    splitting infinitives

    starting a sentence with a conjunction (such as and or but)

    finishing a sentence with a preposition (such as to or for)

    using firstly...secondly instead of first...second.

    The consensus on these matters among grammarians (see references in Section1.8) is

    set out below.

    Split infinitives

    A split infinitive occurs where the word to is divided by an adverb from its infinitive;

    for example:

    to boldly go

    to hurriedly reply.

    While careful writers generally avoid splitting an infinitive, they are happy to do so if

    it would otherwise cause ambiguity or clumsiness. Indeed, in some circumstances the

    meaning of a sentence can be entirely changed by trying to avoid splitting an

    infinitive. In the examples below, correction of the split infinitive used in the first

    sentence either changes the meaning or results in unacceptable clumsiness and


  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 21

    4 August 2005

    The procedure failed to completely fix the problems arising from the damaged

    foundationssplit infinitive.

    The procedure completely failed to fix the problems arising from the damaged

    foundationschanged meaning.

    The procedure failed to fix the problems arising from the damaged foundations

    completelysome ambiguity.

    By all means avoid a split infinitive, but do not do so on the assumption that it is an

    inviolable grammatical rule. As Bryson (1987) says:

    If you wish, you may remain blindly intolerant of the split infinitive, but you should do

    so with the understanding that you are without the support of a single authority. (p. 152)

    Starting a sentence with a conjunction

    If you occasionally start a sentence with and or but, you are merely following the

    practice of many a revered author, from Shakespeare and Dickens to Patrick White.

    But be careful not to overdo it. And be sure that the emphasis of the sentence still

    falls in the appropriate place.

    You also have the grammarians on your side:

    There used to be an idea that it was inelegant to begin a sentence with and. The idea is

    now dead. (Cowers 1987, p. 98.)

    Finishing a sentence with a preposition

    Where the natural rhythm of a sentence suggests that a preposition should remain at

    the end, do not feel obliged to change it on the basis of a half-remembered exhortation

    that such a practice was wrong, or because your computers grammar checker tries to

    correct you. As many prepositions also function as adverbs, there are occasions where

    a preposition at the end of a sentence is entirely appropriate, as in:

    The problem has now been dealt with.

    Once the closing date has passed, I will let you know how many responses we are

    still waiting for.

    Be careful that such usage does not change the tone in a formal document. Otherwise,

    be confident that you are not breaking any grammatical rule. The Oxford guide to the

    English language (1984) sums this question up as follows:

    It is a natural feature of the English language that many sentences and clauses end with

    a preposition, and has been since the earliest times. The alleged rule that forbids the

    placing of a preposition at the end of a clause or sentence should be disregarded.

    (p. 166)

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 22

    4 August 2005

    First versus firstly

    There is no grammatical reason to prefer one of these usages above another: first or

    firstly is equally acceptable. The question was dealt with many years ago by Fowler

    in his inimitable style:

    The preference for first over firstly in formal enumerations is one of the harmless

    pedantries in which those who like oddities because they are odd are free to indulge,provided that they abstain from censuring those who do not share the liking. (1980, 1st

    ed. 1926, 200)

    1.5.4 Some problems with prepositions, articles and pronouns


    In addition to the widespread confusion about placing prepositions at the end of

    sentences, prepositions also cause occasional problems when linked incorrectly with

    other words, such as:

    Compared (to or with?): Generally it is fine to use either. Where a detailed

    comparison is being made, with is more usual, as in:

    The estimates were compared with those of the previous five years.

    Where the comparison is merely a statement of similarity or difference, to is more


    Compared to Canberra, Sydney is very crowded.

    She compared the news to being struck by lightning.

    Different (from, to or than?): Different from is the most widely accepted

    usage, although different to can be used when introducing a clause:

    This is different to how you explained it yesterday.

    Different than is generally regarded as American usage.

    Composed/comprised: Use composed of, but never comprised of. The whole

    comprises the parts, not vice versa:

    The document is composed of ten chapters.

    The document comprises ten chapters.

    There is also an increasingly common failure to add prepositions to some words (such

    as protest, appeal and agreed) where prepositions are clearly required:

    The demonstrators protested against (or about) the court ruling (not: the

    demonstrators protested the court ruling).

    The defendant appealed against the decision (not: the defendant appealed the


    The committee agreed with the proposal (not: the committee agreed the proposal).

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 23

    4 August 2005

    The indefinite article

    The question of whether to use a or an can sometimes cause uncertainty,

    particularly before some words beginning with h (e.g. hotel, historian) or before

    abbreviations beginning with letters that, although not vowels, are pronounced with an

    initial vowel sound (i.e. f, h, l, m, n, r and s)

    The answer is always to follow spoken practice. Thus use an where the following

    word is pronounced with an initial vowel as, for example, in:

    an hour

    an honour

    an FBT provision

    an LED screen

    an EIS document

    an $11 million project

    an 80 km track.

    Use a where the following word begins with a voiced consonant, as in:

    a historic event

    a hotel

    a KBR requirement

    a UN contingent

    a $500 loan.


    A common problem with personal pronouns is knowing when to use I or me,

    particularly when combined with other nouns or pronouns.

    The general rule is to use I as the subject of a verb and me as the object. The

    following examples are given as a guide:

    John, Jack and me are meeting in Paris. (Wrong: It should be: John, Jack and

    Ias these are the subject of the verb are meeting.)

    The award was made to you and I for joint work. (Wrong: It should be: to you

    and meas these are in the objective case.)

    An easy test is to place the personal pronoun as the sole subject or object of the verb,

    as this makes a mistake far less likely. Not many people would consider writing, for

    example, the award was made to I.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 24

    4 August 2005

    The use of myself can also occasionally cause problems. Only use it where such

    emphasis is really necessary; otherwise it will appear pompous. For example:

    Return copies of the completed document to the accountant and myself.

    (Unnecessarily pompous. Use me.)

    I will do it myself. (Correct use of emphasis.)

    Some writers are also unsure when choosing between the relative pronouns that and

    which, and the wrong choice can lead to ambiguity. It is sound practice to use:

    which in a non-defining clause (i.e. a clause, usually separated by commas, that

    comments on the preceding statement but is not integral to its meaning);

    that in a defining clause (i.e. a clause that completes the meaning of the principal


    For example:

    I made a list of the books that had influenced me greatly.

    I always buy his books, which have influenced me greatly.


    Punctuation, used correctly, is a great aid to clarity, as it indicates the logical

    relationship between various parts of a sentence. The extent of punctuation a writer

    uses is partly a matter of personal style. However, inadequate or incorrect punctuation

    can cause ambiguity or obscurity, while unnecessary punctuation can be equally

    distracting. It is therefore worth giving punctuation adequate attention to ensure it

    assists, rather than hampers, your communication.

    There are numerous fine points about punctuation that careful writers observe, and

    Section1.8 provides suggestions for further reading on this topic. However, the focus

    of this current section (Section 1.6) is restricted to a review of some commondilemmas associated with the following punctuation marks:





    quotation mark


    dash (en rule and em rule)




  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 25

    4 August 2005

    1.6.1 Commas

    Perhaps the three most frequent problems that occur when using commas are:

    forgetting to use a second comma in a pair, to mark the end of material of a

    parenthetical nature;

    uncertainty about whether to use a comma before and in a series; splitting a long subject from its verb in a complex sentence.

    Pairs of commas

    Where additional commentary not essential to the main statement is included in a

    sentence, it should be marked off by a pair of commas:

    The concept plan envisages that, where appropriate, well vegetated dunes will be

    preserved as open space.


    The concept plan envisages that, where appropriate well vegetated dunes(The second comma in the first example above also preserves the clarity of meaning.)

    Similarly, a pair of commas is needed to mark off elements of a title or address from

    the rest of the sentence:

    The Principal Engineer, Computing Systems, was responsible for

    The project was directed from the office in Jinan, China, where the Project

    Supervisor was located.

    Series commas

    It is generally unnecessary to use a comma before the final and in a simple series:

    KBR undertakes studies in urban, regional and statutory planning.

    In the above example, the comma takes the place of and between urban and

    regional; with and being used to connect the final two elements of the list, insertion

    of a comma after regional would serve no practical purpose. However, use a comma

    before and where it is necessary to avoid ambiguity:

    Tenders were submitted by Smith and Jones, and Wood.

    Without the final comma in the above example, it would be unclear whether Jones was

    Smiths or Woods partner.

    Also use a comma before and if the series is lengthy or complex, and the comma

    aids clarity.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 26

    4 August 2005

    Post-subject commas

    Sometimes a complex subject will lead to the incorrect insertion of a comma before

    the verb. For example:

    not: Groundwater abstractions required for construction work associated with the

    development of taxiways, will lower groundwater levels in the immediate

    vicinity for the duration of the work.

    but: Groundwater abstractions required for construction work associated with the

    development of taxiways will lower groundwater levels

    1.6.2 Semicolons

    Semicolons are used to indicate a pause greater than that marked by a comma but less

    than would justify a full stop. For example:

    The building is nearly complete; however, some fittings have yet to be installed.

    A related function of semicolons is to separate clauses or phrases already containing

    commas, such as in the following listing:The North Haven project was unusual from several standpoints: its sheer

    magnitude; the complexity of the engineering, urban planning and negotiating

    procedures required to bring it to fruition; and the method of implementation.

    1.6.3 Colons

    As indicated in the last example above, a colon is used to introduce a statement within

    a sentence that explains, amplifies or otherwise comments upon the preceding clause.

    Be careful, however, not to break a single clause with a colon. In the following

    example, the colon is wrong:

    The causes of the problem are: high pH levels, poor drainage and lack of

    protection from westerly winds. (Wrong: remove the colon.)

    A colon is also used when introducing indented material, such as bullet subparagraphs

    or lengthy quotations.

    A further use is to indicate ratios:


    1.6.4 Apostrophes


    Apostrophes seem to be increasingly misunderstood, and unfortunately can regularlybe found insinuating their way into plurals, particularly in signage (e.g. tomatos).

    Such usage is considered totally unacceptable by the ordinary literate reader or writer,

    and is enough to bring on apoplexy in editors. Never do it!

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 27

    4 August 2005

    Possessive case

    The main purpose of the apostrophe is to indicate possession. For singular nouns, put

    the apostrophe before the final s:

    the bosss office

    Dickenss novels.

    For plural nouns, add the apostrophe after the final s:

    the bosses offices

    the Smiths house.

    However, do not use the apostrophe with personal pronouns:





    The apostrophe is no longer used to indicate the possessive case in place names in


    Frenchs Forest

    Georges River.

    These days it is also considered acceptable to omit the apostrophe in compound nouns

    where the word(s) in the possessive case are functioning as adjectives. For example:

    boys high school

    travellers cheques

    Citizens Advice Bureau.

    Omission of letters

    The other purpose of the apostrophe is to indicate missing letters in colloquial

    contractions, such as:



    its (meaning it isnot to be confused with the possessive pronoun, its).

    Note, however, that apart from these colloquial expressions, contractions do not takeapostrophes to indicate missing letters:




  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 28

    4 August 2005

    1.6.5 Quotation marks

    The modern tendency is to use single, rather than double, quotation marks. The

    exception is for a quotation within a passage that is itself quoted, when double

    quotation marks are necessary to avoid confusion.

    Use the correct opening and closing quotation marks, rather than undifferentiated

    straight quotation marks. (To achieve this in Microsoft Word?, ensure the smart

    quotes option has been turned onunder Autocorrect in the Tools menu bar.)


    Quotation marks should be used to enclose short, exact quotations within normal text:

    Section 92 of the Constitution provides that interstate trade and commerce shall be

    absolutely free.

    Quotations of more than a couple of lines in length should be indented as a block and

    set without quotation marks.

    Other uses

    Quotation marks should also be used:

    for the titles of chapters, articles and unpublished works when cited within text;

    to high light, on its first occurrence in the text, a word or phrase used in a specific

    technical sense that would be unfamiliar to readers:

    The most significant sites are those where Aboriginal people still conduct

    ceremonies, and are referred to as living sites;

    to enclose matter introduced by such phrases as entitled or the term, or to

    highlight (on its first mention) a foreign word or phrase likely to be unfamiliar to


    Kakarra and Yallingarra (terms meaning east) have been interpreted

    mistakenly as possible references to eastern Kokatha;

    to suggest an ironic or alternative interpretation of the word:

    Certain grammatical rules are often followed blindly.

    Where an important technical term is being introduced that will be discussed

    subsequently in more detail, light italics can be used to give more emphasis than

    would be provided through quotation marks.

    However, whether using quotation marks or italics to distinguish unfamiliar words, be

    careful not to overuse this technique. A range of words highlighted in this way

    throughout a document can produce an entirely inappropriate emphasis, and can prove

    very irritating for readers.

    Unnecessary uses

    Quotation marks are not required for enclosing the name of a building or property:

    The original lease for Wattle Flats Station covered the area in which the existing

    homestead, Kurrajong, is located (not Wattle Flats Station or Kurrajong).

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 29

    4 August 2005

    Also, do not use quotation marks to enclose references to specific sites:

    Area A (not A)

    Site 5 (not 5).

    1.6.6 Hyphens

    The concise Oxford dictionary(second edition, 1992) has been set as KBRs standard

    dictionary, and is to be followed not only for spelling but also for hyphenation (e.g.

    cooperate, bypass, cross-section).

    If the word or compound is not mentioned in this dictionary, consult Section 3 of

    KBRs Style Guide, Australia, which includes a range of compound words frequently

    used in KBR documents. Failing this, try a relevant technical dictionary.

    Note that hyphens are always used for:

    compass directions (e.g. north-east);

    fractions (e.g. three-quarters);

    compound numbers (e.g. twenty-one);

    joining words of equal value to create a merged meaning (e.g. owner-occupier,

    blue-greenalthough see Section 1.6.7 for the use of en rules to join words where

    each element maintains its separate identity).

    As a general rule keep hyphenation to a minimum, using it principally to clarify

    meaning. For example, an ill educated man has quite a different meaning from an

    ill-educated man, and similarly re-form and re-cover differ in meaning when


    Note that adjectives and adverbs ending in ly do not take hyphens in compound


    a fully equipped truck


    a fully-equipped truck.

    Some compounds may take hyphens only when used adjectivally (e.g. up-to-date,

    on-site). Also do this if the meaning is made clearer by the hyphenation, as in the

    following examples:

    loam-covered tufa mounds

    bridge-type dumping station

    two-stage roll crusher.

    Whatever choice you make in terms of hyphenation, ensure that you maintain

    consistency throughout the document.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 30

    4 August 2005

    1.6.7 Dashes

    There are two types of dashes:

    an em rule (), which is approximately the length of an m

    an en rule (), which is shorter, being about the length of an n.

    Em rule

    The em rule is used to separate a parenthetic element within a sentence. It may be

    used in pairs, like brackets, although it marks a more abrupt break:

    Some of the materials requiredassuming the project proceedscould be sourced


    Alternatively, it may be used alone, when it functions like a colon, although once

    again it indicates a more abrupt change:

    Some of the materials required for the project could be sourced locallythat is, if

    you decide to go ahead with it.

    En rule

    The en rule is a linking device, in contrast to the separation function of the em rule. It

    is used to represent to in spans of figures, and in expressions of time and space:

    2030 mL

    9094 Barry Drive

    199495 financial year


    MelbourneAdelaide rail link.

    An en rule is also used to link words that maintain their separate identities:

    AustraliaIndia Business Council

    CommonwealthState boundaries.

    A spaced en rule should be used when linking more than two words:

    Adelaide Alice Springs

    sandhill wattle mulga woodland.

    An en rule is the appropriate style of dash to use in tables.

    An en rule is also the correct form of dash for a minus sign. It is unspaced whenattached to a specific number (21), and spaced when used as an operative sign in

    mathematical expressions (10 5).

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 31

    4 August 2005

    1.6.8 Brackets

    Brackets may be used to enclose matter that is not essentially connected with the rest

    of the sentence, but that expands or clarifies its meaning:

    Elimination of existing vegetation would be required in the areas of intense

    development (the tailings retention area, plant area and quarry).

    In a similar way, brackets are used to enclose internal cross-references, references to

    other publications, abbreviations and examples:

    (see Chapter 7)

    (Graham 1969)


    (e.g. rocky outcrop).

    In cases where the use of brackets within already bracketed text cannot be avoided,

    use square brackets for the internal set. It is preferable, however, to reword the text so

    that only the one set of brackets is necessary. (This is because square brackets aretraditionally used to show interpolations by someone other than the author: a situation

    that is unlikely in KBR documents.)

    When using brackets, the punctuation should relate to the text within the brackets (in a

    similar way to the placement of punctuation with quotations marks). Thus, if the

    brackets enclose a full sentence, the full stop should be inside the closing brackets. If

    the bracketed text is only part of a clause or sentence that would normally be followed

    by punctuation, then the appropriate punctuation mark should be placed after the final


    1.6.9 Solidus

    A solidus (or slash) is used to indicate:




    per in metric symbols:

    60 km/h

    A solidus should not be used as a linking device. Do not use it, for example, in

    financial years (1994/95) or in such expressions as Melbourne/Adelaide rail link.

    Nor should it be used to mean per in general text where measurements have beenwritten out:

    60 tonnes per annum


    60 tonnes/annum.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Guidelines for effective writing, Rev. 1 32

    4 August 2005

    1.6.10 Ellipsis

    Three points of ellipsis are used to indicate missing words in quoted text:

    The programme will proceed without delay...We expect budget approval within

    two days.

    (Many soft-ware programs have a special ellipsis character which should be used.) Nofurther full stop is required if the points of ellipsis end a sentence.


    1.7.1 Copyright law

    All authors must respect copyright ownership, which is protected under both

    Australian and international law.

    All original written documents, as well as original maps, diagrams, plans, photographs

    and similar material, are protected in Australia under the Copyright Act 1968, and

    internationally (with a few exceptions) under the Berne Convention of 1886 and the

    Universal Copyright Convention of 1969.

    1.7.2 Copyright ownership

    The fundamental principle of copyright is that it protects not the ideas or information

    but their form of expression. The form in which they are expressed is owned by the

    originator, who may be an individual or, in the case of a corporate document, the

    company employing the originator and sponsoring the production.

    Copyright of commissioned works usually remains with the originator, unless

    specifically assigned elsewhere. Copyright of commissioned photographs taken since

    July 1998 usually resides with the photographer unless otherwise agreed.

    Anything published by the Commonwealth Government is owned by the Crown,unless there is a separate agreement with the originator.

    Copyright does not have to be applied for. It comes into existence automatically when

    the work is made. Protection under copyright legislation may last for up to fifty years

    or more (either from the date of publication or from the death of the originator,

    depending on the circumstances).

    Copyright is a property, and so can be transferred or sold.

    1.7.3 Implications for KBR

    Copyright law has the following specific implications for KBR in terms of report


    Unless it is specified in the contract with a particular client that copyright

    ownership is to be held by the client (either solely, or jointly with KBR), KBR

    retains ownership of copyright in reports or other work produced by KBR for its

    clients. Clients frequently require copyright ownership of all our services, so do

    not assume otherwise without checking.

  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


  • 7/23/2019 Effective Writting Reference


    KBR Engineering College Infrastructure Course 1.7

    Peters, P. 1995. The Cambridge Australian English style guide. Cambridge:

    Cambridge University Press.

    Plotnik, A. 1984. The elements of editing: A modern guide for editors and

    journalists. London: Collier Macmillan.

    Rude, C. A. 1991. Technical editing. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing


    Scott, W. P. 1984. Communication for professional engineers. London: Thomas

    Telford Ltd.

    Stern, G., R. Bolitho, and R. Lutton. 1993. The guide to Australian usage and

    punctuation. North Blackburn, Victoria: Collins Dove.

    Strunk, W., and E. B. White. 1979. The elements of style. 3rd ed. New York:


    Thomson, A. J., and A. V. Martinet. 1989. A practical English grammar. 4th ed.

    Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Walsh, B. 1989. Communicating in writing. 2nd ed. Canberra: AGPS Press.