WRITING USER-FRIENDLY DOCUMENTS
Use a Question-and-Answer Format
Use short sentences to deliver a clear message.
The best way to tell your reader what you want is a short, straightforward sentence.
Complex sentences loaded with dependent clauses and exceptions confuse the reader
by losing the main point in a forest of words. Resist the temptation to put everything in
one sentence; break up your idea into its various parts and make each one the subject
of its own sentence.
|For good reasons, the Secretary may grant
extensions of time in 30-day increments for filing of the lease and all required bonds,
provided that additional extension requests are submitted and approved before the
expiration of the original 30 days or the previously granted extension.||We may extend the time you have to file the lease and required bonds. Each extension
will be for a 30-day period. To get an extension, you must write to us giving the
reasons that you need more time. We must receive your extension request in time to
approve it before your current deadline or extension expires.|
Complexity is the greatest enemy of clear communication. You may need to be
especially inventive to translate complicated provisions into more manageable
language. In the following example, we have made an "if" clause into a separate
sentence. By beginning the first sentence with "suppose that" and the second
sentence with "in this case," we have preserved the relationship between the two.
|If you take less than your entitled share of
production for any month, but you pay royalties on the full volume of your entitled
share in accordance with the provisions of this section, you will owe no additional royalty
for that lease for prior periods when you later take more than your entitled share to balance
your account. This also applies when the other participants pay you money to balance
your account.|| Suppose that one month you pay royalties on
your full share of production but take less than your entitled share. In this case, you
may balance your account in one of the following ways without having to pay more
royalty. You may either:|
(a) Take more than your entitled share in
the future; or
(b) Accept money from other participants.
Short sentences pep up and clarify your text and hold the reader's