Written by Joanna Vandervlugt; copy edited by Maggie Clark
On Saturday, February 23, 2019, I attended Frances Peck’s seminar for Editors BC, “Getting the Message Across: Clear Writing Tips.”
Despite coming over from Vancouver Island, I found this seminar’s location convenient. The seminar was set up in Vancouver at the BCIT Downtown Campus. This place was an easily accessible one for those who were familiar with the SkyTrain routes like myself.
After reaching my destination from the SkyTrain and settling in, I got to know a bit more about the other class participants. We introduced ourselves, and it seemed that the seminar participants ranged from proofreaders, editors, writers, and academics. Many commented that they were a fan of Frances, and I soon learned why.
Creating a comforting atmosphere throughout her seminar, Frances engaged the other participants and I. There was never a dull moment. Even in the afternoon, during a naturally sleepy time of the day, Frances kept up a rhythm to her presentation.
Throughout her seminar, Frances discussed a number of topics, including ones on identifying readers and defining objectives, using an open and entertaining approach.
Partway through this discussion, the class completed some short exercises, cementing the ideas we had learned.
The first exercise covered was on knowing your reader and producing reader-centred writing. Frances discussed the four reader roles: decision makers, advisors, implementers, and public/outside parties.
We learned that decision makers require information to weigh alternatives and make decisions. This type of reader is interested in conclusions, recommendations, and the outcomes of a course of action.
Advisors are readers who are more interested in details, findings, and evidence. This type of reader will analyze information as the basis for any legal advice. They will also want to know the outcome if recommendations are adopted and what problems might arise.
Implementers are readers who are looking for information on what an individual is expected to do. This type of reader is looking for instructions and also possibly timelines. They want to know the what and why of the undertaking.
The fourth type of reader is the public/outside parties. This type of reader consists of individuals who want to be informed, but they also want to know why they should read your communication. They need to be pulled into the communication with a good hook.
Knowing what type of reader you are writing for will determine how much detail you use in your communication. Will your reader understand the information more if it’s presented in tables and charts? Or is it better conveyed in prose?
All of this information was fascinating to learn, and the way it was presented made me a fan of Frances. I hope she ends up holding more seminars like this one in the future.
Joanna Vandervlugt is an author, illustrator, and book designer. Her mystery novel “The Unravelling” is scheduled for release in June 2019. Other projects she’s worked on include creating over 20 car and motorcycle commissions. She has also just completed the cover art and book design for a romance novel. Currently, she’s working on the cover art for a mystery novel. Her work can be viewed at www.jcvartstudio.com or on Instagram at @JCVArtStudio.