Cut Through the Clutter

Master proven-in-the-lab techniques for making every piece you write easier to read and understand …

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

Let’s start with the bad news: More than half of American adults have basic or below basic prose skills, according to the Department of Education’s latest literacy test.

Ann Wylie's In-house clear writing workshop: Cut Through the Clutter

Can you read me now? Master 130 years of clear-writing best practices at our clutter-cutting Master Class.

That means they can sign forms, compare ticket prices for two events and look up shows in a TV guide. But most can’t find places on a map, calculate the cost of office supplies from a catalog or compare viewpoints in two editorials.

But with a Cut Through the Clutter in-house workshop, your team will master 130 years of clear-writing best practices. Specifically, your team will learn how to:

“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.”
– Rachel George-Leidenfrost, internal communications associate, M&T Bank

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Reach Real Readers

Get a reading-level reality check with results from the latest U.S. literacy study

“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.

Draw more people into your piece and help them read it faster, understand it better and remember it longer.

In this session, we’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 your team will master techniques that get more people to read your piece, read more of it, read it faster, understand it better and remember it longer:

  • Write for real readers. Chances are, you’re vastly overestimating your audience members’ literacy rate, according to a massive international study.
  • Overcome special audience challenges. Older people, health care consumers, mobile users — maybe even your CEO — may need more help than you realize.
  • Sell readability’s bottom-line business value. 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 and manage readability — your No. 1 tool for reaching more readers.
“I would recommend this workshop to anyone who has to write more than 2 sentences a day – ANYONE!”
— Melissa Summer, associate marketing manager, CPP

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Cut Through the Clutter

Measure, monitor and manage clarity 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.

Cut Through the Clutter

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.”

Analyze your message for 27 readability metrics and leave with targets, tips and techniques for improving each one.

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 team members’ message through a cool (free!) tool to measure, monitor and manage readability.

You’ll find out 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.
  • Avoid discombobulating readers. Leave this workshop with 11 metrics for reducing sentence length and increasing comprehension.
  • Stop getting skipped. 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.
“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.”
— Sharon Foote, public information specialist, Mecklenburg County Water & Land Resources

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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?

Take the Numb Out of Numbers: Make statistics understandable and interesting

Avoid statistics soup and other bad numbers tricks that make your readers’ eyes glaze over.

“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, your team will master the art of making numbers understandable as well as interesting:

  • 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.
“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, director of communications, Oklahoma Public School Resource Center

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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.

Start making sense

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.

Translate the language of your organization into the language of your readers.

In this session, your team will learn how to avoid these obstacles by translating the language of your organization into the language of your readers. You’ll find out 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.
“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

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Get a writing workout with Ann

Boost readability up to 300% in our clutter-cutting smackdown

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.

Get a writing workout with Ann

But in our practice sessions, your team will get a great opportunity for reflection and improvement.

Master the skills we study in class and leave with a totally rewritten piece.

Bring your laptop and a story to work on. You’ll get 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.
“The piece I worked on at the workshop has improved measurably. I found Cut Through the Clutter to be highly relevant to my daily work, and look forward to putting the tips and techniques into practice.”
— Scott Worden, manager, corporate communications & PR, Magna International

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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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“Ann is brilliant and arms you with the tools to succeed.”
– Katie Anselmo, internal communication manager, Comcast


“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

Get your team on the same page with a one-day, 6-hour workshop:

  • Learn tips and techniques for Mastering the Art of the Storyteller. Includes workbook and handout masters for you to copy. They’ll learn how to:
    • Reach Real Readers: Get a reading-level reality check with results from the latest U.S. literacy study.
    • Cut Through Clutter: Measure, monitor and manage clarity with a cool (free) tool!
  • See how your team is doing with customization. I’ll use your team’s writing samples as examples in the workshop.
  • Keep them learning after the workshop ends with a three-month membership to Rev Up Readership for up to 30 members of your team.
“I got a new client by applying one of Ann’s principles. Cut Through the Clutter was a breakthrough for me.”
— Marsha Strong, general manager, 92.7 KKBS Boss Radio

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Two-day Master Class

Help your team members master the techniques they learn in class with a two-day, 12-hour workshop:

  • Learn additional tips and techniques. The two-day workshop includes additional modules:
    • Take the Numb Out of Numbers: Make statistics understandable and interesting.
    • Start Making Sense: Get the gobbledegook, jargon & gibberish out.
    • Get a writing workout with Ann: Boost readability up to 300% in our clutter-cutting smackdown.
  • Master the techniques they learn in class by applying them immediately, getting feedback from Ann and the group, and rewriting. That’s how we put the Master in Master Class.
“Reviewing other’s work and progression provided a lot of inspiration I wasn’t expecting.”
— Kersten Rohrbach, communication specialist, Edward Jones

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Webinar series

Save travel expenses and reach far-flung colleagues with a webinar series:

  • 4-session series covers the one-day workshop material
  • 6-hour session covers the Master Class material, but without the feedback and practice.
“I cannot believe how much I changed and improved one piece in this session. I also enjoyed the ability to hear more from the other professionals in the room. Very interactive, which I loved.”
— Megan McCarl, public relations associate, Lambert, Edwards & Associates

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Add writing guidelines

Want to get all of your communicators on the same page about what constitutes good writing? When your communicators walk out of our session with customized writing guidelines, you’ll be able to:

  • Tell your communicators what to do with “the book” of proven-in-the-lab best writing practices that I share in my Catch Your Readers workshop
  • Show your communicators how to do it with before-and-after examples of your content providers’ own work to illustrate each best practice
  • Help your communicators sell ideas to reviewers and approvers with brief summaries of the research behind the rules
  • Make it easy for communicators to implement the guidelines with four handy one-page cheat sheets that content providers can use to check their own work or to edit others’

BONUS: As I’ll be rewriting some of your team’s writing samples to illustrate the befores and afters, I’ll be able to show your participants “How Ann would have done it” in class — one of the biggest requests we get in feedback.

Learn more …

“Makes me want to go back and revise everything I’ve done in the past three years.”
— Blythe Campbell, director, communications and marketing, NANA Development Corp.

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Add templates

Ever wish you had annotated models and checklists for writing your online messages? Let us develop formulas, templates and examples to make your online 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 stories, 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 pieces illustrating each of the templates.

WWAD? Find out with this service.

“Ann offered credible and thorough information. Ann’s presentation gives you the confidence to be the expert in your office.”
— Zainnaib Jalloh, marketing and communications specialist, Doctors

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Free writing tips
  • Get tips, tricks & trends for Catching Your Readers
  • Learn to write better, easier & faster
  • Discover proven-in-the-lab writing techniques