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I wholeheartedly support the thrust of the article in July's GE ('Improve your word power' page 33) regarding the quality of communications skills. I would like to add a few observations on written skills.

Over the past 20 years (in almost 40 years' professional work) I have spent a considerable proportion of my time not only correcting English, but trying to make reports more 'readable' (apart from ensuring that the language did not exacerbate risks of professional indemnity insurance claims).

For example, too often authors forget who their reports are aimed at and can clutter text with highly technical aspects more suited to appendices, and so on. Also, if you do not fully understand the point of the 'story' you cannot tell it very well, if at all.

Ideally, one should be able to write the executive summary before writing the full report, or at least the interpretive part of it (mind you, not everyone understands the profound difference between summary and executive summary).

Although this approach is sometimes not practicable, knowing clearly what the 'bottom line' is can provide much greater focus to the reporting process. Reports are also too often written as if thrillers, with the punch line masked until near the end; they should let the reader in on the 'secret' as early as possible so they can appreciate more readily the significance of points being made.

The solution? Sorry, I have not got the time and, anyway, I am not sure the business world as a whole cares sufficiently to redress the deteriorating situation.

David Barry, DLB Environmental

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