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Our Brand

10 tips
for better
writing
December 2012 | languageteam@cisco.com
2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

The right words can help


you convince people.
Reach out to them.
Show you understand
them and whats
important to them.
And make sure they
understand you.
Here are 10 tips to help
you do it.
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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

Put your
reader 1st

When we write, we tend to focus on


what we think is important. But the
first rule of good business writing
is to see things from your readers
point of view. So ask yourself what
they need.

2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

Tell a positive story


Once upon a tiBut make it real

Paint a picture of how we could


change the readers future.
Get them imagining the possibilities.
Then tell them how were going to
make it happen.

2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

Flip the order

A lot of business writing goes like this.


Customers were having a problem.
So we did A, B and C.
But that didnt work.
So we tried X, Y and Z.
And we fixed the problem.
Its much better to start with:
We fixed the problem.

2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

We need to
talk about us

10

When you talk about Cisco, say we.


And talk to you. It shows we want to
connect with you, the reader.

2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

11

Go easy on the
jargon and TLAs*

Before you use jargon and acronyms,


think about who youre talking to.
If theyre an expert in their field,
some jargon might be OK (though
its still best to explain it upfront).
If theyre anyone else, its not.
So talk about the benefits of those
things instead. And do it in clear,
simple language.

* Three-letter acronyms.

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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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As a reader, which of these


do you prefer?

Show,
dont tell

This?
The Cisco Medical-Grade Network
supports mobility, unified communications,
and various applications including
electronic medical records, and
computerized order entry. It facilitates
greater collaboration between caregivers
and enables flexible wired and wireless
communications.
Or this?
A doctor gets a second opinion
on an MRI scan from a specialist.
The doctor is in San Francisco.
The specialist is in London walking his
dog.
Our Medical-Grade Network makes it
possible.

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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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Dont leave
them hang
ing

People respond better when you


tell them what you want them to do
next. Get in touch? Confirm a date?
Share information with their team?
Nothing at all? (Its good to know
that too).
So put it in there, somewhere.

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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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Cut, cut, and


cut some more

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As a general rule of thumb, well


in our experience anyway, most
first writing drafts need a trim here
and a chop there. Actually, they
probably need cutting by something
in the region of 50%. Its easy to do,
so dont panic: just delete anything
that you think isnt relevant. Once
youve done that, then go back to
the very beginning and take out all
those extra, unnecessary words
that dont add anything. Keep on
repeating what youre doing again
and again (it sounds boring but its
actually fun) until youre happy that
whats left is as short and relevant
as you can possibly make it.

2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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Shrink your
sentences

Short sentences sound bold,


confident and decisive.
They break up your writing nicely.
Give it rhythm. And pace.
Wake your reader up.
Surprise and engage.
Short rocks.
Period.

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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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10

Listen up

Read what youve written out loud.


Then ask yourself:
Do you sound confident, convincing
and natural?
[ ] Yes
[ ] No (go back through tips 1-9)

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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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Content
Dreaming and Doing
We talk about ideas, possibilities
and the future. And we always
back it up with how were making
it happen.

The Cisco Voice

Structure
Short and Relevant
We dont waste peoples time
with documents that go on and
on. And we focus on whats
important to the reader.
Tone
Bold and Human
Were confident. But still warm
and approachable.
This is our voice.

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2012 Cisco and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. This document is Cisco confidential.

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Feeling Inspired?
Head over to
iwe.cisco.com/web/words.
Or, to find out more, get in touch with
languageteam@cisco.com.

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