1. Have someone outside your department read what you’ve written, and ask them if they understand it thoroughly. Chances are you’re using some term that makes sense to you, but not to your intended reader. Someone from outside your fishbowl will catch that.
2. Avoid acronyms. But if you just have to use an acronym, at least spell it out when using it for the first time in an article, like this: This technique lowers total harmonic distortion (THD).
3. Don’t get cute. Never use any derivation of the Got Milk campaign (for example, “Got Trash?” or “Got Pho?”). Never make any allusion that “size does matter.” Leave humor to the experts.
4. Don’t lie. Exaggeration and hyperbole are lies. Omitting important details, or burying them in the fine print, is a form of lying. You want readers to believe you, so tell the truth.
5. Proofread it out loud. Then have someone else proofread it out loud while you listen.
6. Say it correctly. “Happens only once a year” is better than “Only happens once a year.” (Only Jack kissed Mary. Jack only kissed Mary. Jack kissed only Mary.) Misuse “it’s/its” or “your/you’re” only if you want the reader to think you’re incompetent.
7. Resist the urge to use an exclamation point. Resist!
8. Unless you’re simply listing a commodity and a price (1 gal. 2% milk, $3) include at least one product benefit. (Chocolate Milk. A good source of calcium and kids love it. 1 gal. $3)
9. Try to find a way to work the word “you” into the headline. “Free” is not bad either. (But see point #4.)
10. Know when to bend the rules. You’re trying to communicate with people using only symbols. But when a person reads, they hear a voice talking in their head. It’s sometimes okay for that voice to start a sentence with a preposition.