Ease in Writing
Writing Tips from Full Circle Communications
June 2009
About Full Circle

Writing, editing, and project management for print and online publications

Training and consulting on writing and other communication topics

Have a question about how to tackle an upcoming project?

Visit our website, call 703.212.0349, or send an e-mail.
Join Our Mailing List!
Past Issues
Scan previous issues on such topics as design tips for writers and speechwriting.
Forward to a Friend

Ease in Writing?

"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Foot step chartNote he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just like dance lessons can help get you around the floor with your partner more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two each month so you can improve how your organization communicates in writing.
Meeting Summaries that Meet Your Needs
woman taking notesOne output of many meetings and conferences is a summary to post on the web, publish as a special issue of a journal, or otherwise share with others. For many scientific, advisory committee, and other meetings, what is needed is something less complete than a full transcript but more robust than the short-and-sweet summary we discussed last month.

A few suggestions I pass on if you are or you need to assign a meeting rapporteur:

Come prepared: The rapporteur needs to know as much about the topic and presenters beforehand as possible. Try to find out acronyms, proper names, and terms that will pop up frequently. Check out where you will sit in advance. Can you use your laptop comfortably? Is there a power outlet, or do you need extra batteries? Can you see the screen if the presenters are using one?

Stay alert: Besides a laptop, I come armed with lined pads, assorted pens and pencils, and granola bars or snacks. I switch between laptop and handwriting (often on print-outs of presentations). The variety eases my hand and arm muscles and keeps me more focused.

Understand the format of the final product: As a rough guide, each hour of meeting time takes two to three hours to summarize. The final product can vary considerably: from a set of minutes (e.g., meetings of the Peer Review Advisory Committee of NIH's Center for Scientific Review) to a published book (e.g., a workshop on the impact of genetically engineered organisms for the National Research Council).

Make it worthwhile: A note to writers--add value to the process. Go beyond just restating the presentations without the "ums" and "uhs." Provide the right level of detail. If appropriate, do research to fill in holes. Suggest graphics, sidebars, or other elements that can enliven the copy.

A note to those who are assigning the job, whether in-house or to an outside person--use the rapporteur as a professional writer, not just a note-taker, to make the investment worthwhile.

Stay Calm
notebook pageBesides the practical tips above, expect that you can and will encounter interesting situations as a meeting rapporteur. Take them in stride.

I once served as a rapporteur for a daylong conference that ended in a formal dinner with a speaker. Everyone looked elegant--except the woman still in a business suit and flats, madly taking notes.

My most pleasurable tour of rapporteurship was a weeklong conference that brought together communications professionals from around the world. The participants were fascinating and friendly. Did I mention it took place at Bellagio, the Rockefeller Foundation conference center on Lake Como, Italy?

I've taken notes at big tables, tiny tables, and on my lap. I've heard fast speakers, monotoned speakers, and speakers with very heavy accents. My toughest assignment? Probably every one when I am in the middle of it!
Attention, Authors!
open bookHave you written a book or article? Do you have a communications-related blog or newsletter? A Facebook page or group related to writing?

Let me know what you have created. I'll write about it (and link to it) in another issue of this newsletter.

And please forward or pass on information about this newsletter to people who you think would enjoy it.