Cut Through the Clutter

Learn to make messages easier to read and understand in this concise-writing workshop

“One of the best career experiences I’ve had.”
– Scott Worden, manager, corporate communications & PR, Magna International

Cut through the clutter - in-house concise writing workshopRead it and weep: More than half of all Americans have basic or below basic reading skills, according to the Department of Education’s latest adult literacy test.

That means they can sign forms, compare ticket prices for two events and look up shows in a TV guide. But they have trouble finding places on a map, calculating the cost of office supplies from a catalog and comparing viewpoints in two editorials. How well are we reaching these folks with our messages?

In this concise-writing workshop, you’ll learn how to make every piece you write easier to read and understand. You’ll walk away with secrets you can use to reach more readers, measurably improve readability and sell concise writing to management. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

Specifically, you’ll learn to how to:

Make it a Master Class. Plus, when you make it a Master Class, you also:

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“Great step-by-step instructions on how to do it right.”
— Stacy Mayo, assistant account executive, Rhea + Kaiser

Write for Readability

Reach readers, improve communication — even boost the bottom line — by making your messages more readable

“The problem with communication,” said George Bernard Shaw, “is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”

No kidding. Send out a message that’s written at the 11th grade level, for instance, and 97% of U.S. adults won’t be able to understand it, according to the Department of Education’s latest adult literacy test.

Mission: Not accomplished.

In this session, you’ll dive into the results of this massive worldwide literacy study to get a reality check on the level at which your readers really read. (Prepare to be depressed!) Then you’ll find out how to write easy-to-read messages that get more people to read your piece, read more of it, read it faster, understand it better and remember it longer. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Write at a reading level that really reaches readers. Chances are, you’re vastly overestimating your audience members’ literacy rate, according to a massive international study.
  • Plan your communications for special audience challenges. Older people, health care consumers, mobile users — maybe even your CEO — may need more help than you realize.
  • Sell your boss on the bottom-line business value of making messages more readable. (The U.S. Navy, for instance, saved more than $27 million in officer time by increasing readability.)
  • Increase reading by up to 75% by making one change to your message.
  • Measure, monitor, manage and report readability — your No. 1 tool for making your messages more effective.

Cut Through the Clutter

Measure, monitor and manage readability with a cool (free!) tool

Would your message be twice as good if it were half as long? The research says yes: The shorter your piece, the more likely readers are to read your message, understand it and make good decisions based on it.

But most communicators (and, let’s be fair, their reviewers) ignore the research and keep piling on the paragraphs. The result? “You’re not more informed,” writes Tom Rosenstiel, former media critic for the Los Angeles Times. “You’re just numbed.”

So how long is too long? What’s the right length for your piece? Your paragraphs? Your sentences? Your words? In this session, you’ll run your message through a cool (free!) tool to measure, monitor and manage readability. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Analyze your message for 27 readability metrics — and leave with quantifiable targets, tips and techniques for improving each one.
  • Increase reading, understanding and sharing with five techniques for cutting your copy significantly.
  • Stop discombobulating readers with long sentences. Leave this workshop with 11 metrics for reducing sentence length and increasing comprehension.
  • Avoid causing your reader to skip your paragraphs. Find out how long is too long — and leave with three ways to shorten paragraphs.
  • Eliminate multisyllabic pileups from your copy. They’re the No. 1 predictor of poor readability.

Take the ‘Numb’ Out of Numbers

Make statistics understandable and interesting

If your readers are like most, they have, on average, below basic numeracy, or numerical literacy, according a massive international literacy study. So how well are they understanding your quarterly results?

“Numbers without context, especially large ones with many zeros trailing behind, are about as intelligible as vowels without consonants,” writes Daniel Okrent, former New York Times ombudsman. Indeed, poorly handled, statistics can make your readers’ eyes glaze over.

In this session, you’ll master the art of making numbers understandable as well as interesting. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Avoid statistics soup and data dumps using three simple steps
  • Help readers understand your numbers by asking one key question every time your fingers reach for the top row of the keyboard.
  • Make numbers more emotional by turning them into people, places and things.
  • Create meaningful — not discombobulating — charts and graphs.
  • Find free tools that create attractive charts for you

Start Making Sense

Get the gobbledygook, jargon & gibberish out

Jargon. Buzzwords. Acronyms. They’re things that make your reader go “huh?” And we need to get them out of our message.

Indeed, jargon irritates your reader, makes your message less understandable, reduces your social media reach and influence, cuts your chances of media coverage, makes your website harder to find and demonstrates your lack of knowledge about the topic. It may even suggest that your company is in trouble.

In this session, you’ll learn how to avoid these obstacles by translating the language of your organization into the language of your readers.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Determine when to use jargon to streamline communication — and when to avoid it at all costs.
  • Run a simple test to decide which terms to use with industry insiders.
  • Turn Google into the best thesaurus ever.
  • Define terms the reader-friendly way (Hint: It’s not the way we learned to do it in Journalism 101.)
  • Steal techniques from Warren Buffett to make complex technical information easier to understand — and more fun to read.

Get a clutter-cutting workout with Wylie

Boost readability by up to 300% when you practice your new skills on your own work

In the crunch of writing headlines and meeting deadlines, it sometimes seems as if there’s not enough time to pause and consider how you’re doing. But in our practice sessions, you’ll get a great opportunity for reflection and improvement.

Bring your laptop and a story to work on. We’ll give you a chance to write and rewrite, get and give feedback, and leave with a totally rewritten piece. In these practice sessions, you’ll:

  • Master the techniques you learn in the workshop by applying them immediately. (That’s how we put the “Master” in the Master Class!)
  • Gain valuable insights on your work from your peers and from Ann.
  • Learn to analyze and improve others’ writing — the best skill you can develop for editing others or improving your own work.

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“Other writing coaches tell you what to do.
Ann shows you how.”
— Roberta Laughlin, vice president, Mutual Funds Marketing, Northern Trust

About Ann Wylie

Ann Wylie photo

Get the word out Leave with proven-in-the-lab best practices for reaching readers at Ann Wylie’s in-house writing workshops.

Ann Wylie runs a training, editing and consulting firm called Wylie Communications. She works with communicators who want to reach more readers and with organizations that want to get the word out.

Her workshops take her from Hollywood to Helsinki. There, she helps training clients at organizations like NASA, Nike and Nokia polish their skills and find new inspiration for their work.

Ann has earned more than 60 awards, including two IABC Gold Quills, for her communications. She is the author of more than a dozen learning tools that help people improve their communication skills, including, a toolbox for writers.

Learn more about Ann

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“I learned more in this two-day class than I did in my two-year master’s program.”
— Rochelle Juette, communications specialist, Washington Closure Hanford

One-day writing workshop

  • Learn tips and techniques for Cutting Through Clutter in a customized, six-hour writing workshop.
  • Practice your new skills on your team’s own writing samples.
  • Continue learning after the workshop ends with a three-month membership to Rev Up Readership for up to 30 members of your team.

(Note: Discounted communication association workshops do not include customization or Rev Up Readership memberships.)

Two-day Master Class

In the crunch of writing headlines and meeting deadlines, it sometimes seems as if there’s not enough time to pause and consider how you’re doing. But in our two-day Master Class, your team members will get a chance to write, edit and rewrite; get and give feedback; and leave with a totally rewritten piece. In the process, they will:

  • Master the techniques they learn in the workshop by applying them immediately
  • Get feedback with specific ideas they can use to improve your work immediately
  • Gain valuable insights on their work from their peers and from Ann
  • Learn to analyze and improve each others’ writing — the best skill you can develop for improving your own work

Half-day seminar

Just have half a day? Let’s focus on Writing for Readability and Cutting Through the Clutter.

Add writing guidelines

Want to make sure everyone’s on the same page with your new creative writing techniques — including your approvers and reviewers? Let Ann develop customized writing guidelines, based on best practices, for your team. This is “the book” that lets everyone know, “Here’s how we write it around here.”

Your writing guidelines will include before-and-after examples of your team’s own headlines, leads, links and other story elements. That means your team will not only find out what they need to tweak, but how Ann would tweak it.

Add templates

Ever wish you had annotated models and checklists for writing your messages? Let us develop formulas, templates and examples to make your communications more effective and less time-consuming.

Your team will walk away with fill-in-the-blanks outlines they can use to write your most common types of pieces, whether they’re tipsheets, survey stories, HR stories, product releases, webpages, brochures — you name it. Plus, you’ll get before-and-after versions of your own stories illustrating each of the templates.

WWAD? Find out with this service.

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“A semester’s worth of knowledge in a few hours.”
— Amy Kappler, communications specialist, Burgess and Niple


Cut Through the Clutter: We recommend that every communication team start their training with this fundamental workshop.

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What grads say about Cut Through the Clutter

Rating: 4.830 reviews4.8-star rating


Very good. Reviewing other’s work and progression provided a lot of inspiration I wasn’t expecting.
– Kersten Rohrbach, communication specialist, Edward Jones

I would recommend this workshop to anyone who has to write more than 2 sentences a day – ANYONE!
– Melissa Summer, associate marketing manager, CPP

It was great to discuss in person. Even though I’d heard the condensed version in the PRSA 1-hour webinar, hearing it all expanded and having the energy of all the participants helped.
– Suzanne Krause, public affairs representative, Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin

Ann’s workshop is essential to anyone tasked with communications – their output will “light up the readers’ brains” when they use her very specific and easy-to-implement tips.
– Sheryl Bussard, senior copywriter, ALLDATA

Some of the best professional development I’ve ever had. Everything Ann teaches is practical and I can immediately use it to improve my writing.
– Sarah Julian, communications director, Oklahoma Public School Resource Center

This was an insightful learning opportunity on modern communication. Really beneficial from a PR perspective, or really any corporate communications perspective.
– Madison Brunner, communications specialist, UPMC

It’s a fantastic course that helped me improve my writing, and get it approved by the powers that be.
– Karen Saari, copywriter, Madison Area Technical College

This is my second Wylie workshop and they have been the best professional development I have ever attended. I’m leaving with a tool box of techniques backed by research that I will implement immediately. Also, at both workshops, I have felt so well cared for. Food, wifi, power outlets – all details were thoughtfully taken care of.
– Kelsey Wharton, science writer, Arizona State University

“This was a transformational workshop for me! I’m in awe of Ann’s wealth of knowledge and talents. I plan to put my newly-learned skills to work immediately! I’m inspired enough to work over the weekend!”
— Sheryl Bussard,

“I am using everything I learned in your class and more from the supporting materials. My writing has greatly improved, and my communications colleagues are coming to me for tips.”

“Fantastic! Within 90 minutes I was applying the ideas Ann presented.”

“Learning how to think like a reader instead of a writer has been extremely helpful. The last press release I wrote was 20 percent shorter, had a catchier headline and short, punchy paragraphs.”

“An honest and pragmatic approach to writing and editing. You’ll leave with concrete skills to use immediately to improve your messages. I’ve started haunting my team with reminders of what not to write.”

“I am deleting more words, phrases or entire sentences to reduce clutter and boost meaning. A Program Manager asked me to write a brochure for him last week. I showed him the chart comparing average number of words per sentence with the percentage of comprehension. That helped persuade him to keep the text simple and to the point.”

“I’ve noticed that both my writing and editing have become cleaner and more concise. I’ve received unsolicited, favorable comments from numerous colleagues regarding pieces on which I’ve used these techniques.”

“Useful tips to help you achieve the goal of ‘quit whining, start measuring.’”

“Our payment processing company loves multi-syllable words stuffed into multi-phrase sentences. Now we have better tools, such as the funnel system, to work through the clutter. The best result is that our V.P. of Sales and Marketing is thinking about readability now, too! (We had a nice little talk after I edited a 26-word sentence down to 15 and told him why!)”

“My copy is tighter. More succinct. The ideas are still there, but the filler is gone or trimmed considerably (and better off for it). The other night I was proofing my latest blog entry and I thought, ‘What would Ann think about that second paragraph?’”

“I got a new client by applying one of Ann’s principles. [Cut Through the Clutter] was a breakthrough for me.”

“The most concise, outstanding ‘short course’ on cleaning up copy.”

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Catch Your Readers Hundreds of communicators have learned to get the word out at Ann Wylie’s Master Classes.

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Wylie Communications
949 NW Overton, Ste. 1102
Portland, OR 97209

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