I live in Malta, an island micro-state in the southern Mediterranean with an area and population smaller than Leeds. 200 years of British rule have left their mark for better and for worse, but for residents like me, there is a constant reminder of the colonial legacy in the official communications one receives.

Some Maltese officials produce prose worthier of quill pens than laptops. ‘Please’ is a rarity, not through lack of courtesy but because they prefer ‘kindly’. (Do they say “Kindly pass the salt” at dinner?) Emails and letters are sprinkled with hereunders, heretofors and notwithstandings. Buck passing is facilitated by the use of the passive: in one text introducing a photo exhibition, I read that “fun was had” by early photographers. (“How was your party?” “Great, thanks, fun was had.”)

As well as kindlyitis, Capitalitis is another Infectious Writing Disease which Abounds, as does ampersanditis – the lazy use of the ampersand ‘&’ instead of ‘and’.

So here are ten commandments for writers at work in Malta and elsewhere to make the lives of writers, as well as readers, easier.

1. KISS. Keep It Short and Simple.
2. Use normal language.
3. Spend equal amounts of time planning, drafting and revising.
4. When revising, cut ten per cent of what you wrote, for clearer, leaner results.
5. Think about your readers and the question they are asking: What’s in this for me?
6. Time. Think first about how long you should spend on each piece of writing, and then don’t exceed your limit. The length of time will be in relation to the importance of the communication and the number of people it reaches.
7. For longer pieces, log your work – it saves time in the end.
8. The more you read (books, not social media), the better you will write.
9. Get feedback from others on your writing.
10. Practice, practice, practice makes perfect.

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: steveflind@aol.com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine.

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