Unit 1 Course overview

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should:

  • understand the importance of the five Cs of reader-friendly writing
  • be aware of the extra two Cs of reader-friendly writing
  • have practised identifying the four Cs

Activity 1: Reader-friendly writing I

Reader-friendly writing is when the writer considers the needs of the reader and writes in a way to help the reader. Many writers focus on their message and forget to consider how the reader may respond to the message.

Identify which of the following sentences are reader-friendly and which are reader-unfriendly.

  1. Please click on the link below to check your result for assignment 1.
  2. Congratulations. You have passed assignment.
  3. Well done to those of you who passed. For those who did not pass, you have one more opportunity to submit.
  4. I am afraid that your score was below the pass mark. Please improve your assignment based on the feedback, and resubmit within 7 days.

Work with a partner and compare your answers.

Activity 2: Reader-friendly writing II


Reader-friendly writing aims to reduce the burden on the reader. This is achieved by wriitng in a way that helps the reader understand the message in the shortest time, with the least effort, without distortion and in a positive manner. To achieve this, the writer has to consider seven concepts, the seven Cs. All the Cs are important.

  1. clear - write so that the reader undestands the intended meaning
  2. concise - write using the minimum number of words
  3. couteous - write appropriately politely for the situation
  4. correct - write without factual or language errors
  5. complete - include all the relevant information
  6. coherent - check that the message does not have any contradictions
  7. cohesive - check that the parts of the message connect to each other

This course will focus on the first five Cs.

Activity 3: Pre-test

Check your understanding of reader-friendly writing by deciding which of the following sentences are NOT clear, NOT concise, NOT courteous, NOT correct or NOT complete.

Some sentences may have more than one issue.

  1. Students should not move furnitures in the lab.
  2. I attach the application form, application essay and report for your review again and comments.
  3. When you arrive, you must go directly to the reception desk immediately to register.
  4. Some students do not complete the relevant expense claim form correctly.
  5. I look forward to hearing from you two weeks later.
  6. The university has decided to approve a new program and this program will be lauched on 1 April.
  7. I will contact you later about this.
  8. Students must not leave the lab door open otherwise they will be responsible for any missing items.
  9. I am afraid I cannot help so please contact Ms. Azuma instead.

Activity 4: Comparison and discussion

Work in pairs or small groups. Compare your answers.

two-finger typing

Once you have discussed your answers with a partner, click on the sentences to reveal the the main issue. If the issue displayed is different to your ideas, discuss again. When you are ready, click again to reveal the commentary.

  • This is not correct because there is a grammatical error. Furniture is an uncountable noun and so there is no plural form and so the sentence should be: Students should not move furniture in the lab.

    This is not clear because the reader does not know exactly what to do. Which of the three items (form, essay and report) need to be reviewed again and which need to receive comments? Perhaps, all three need both to be reviewed and comments. If so, what is the difference between reviewing and commenting? S possible revision could be: Please could you review both the application and essay again, and comment on the report?

    This is not courteous because the readered is ordered to do something. What if the reader is tired are they allowed to sit down for a few minutes? There is no need to write this as a command. A more appropriate way would be: Please register at the reception desk as soon as you arrive.

    Although students are warned, they are not given any specific details, and so students do not know the exact problem. This can be improved by provided specific details, e.g. Please remember to fill in page 2 of the form, and place you hanko on both page 1 and page 2.

    We do not use the expression two weeks later. This can be revised as follows: I look forward to hearing from you in two weeks. OR I look forward to hearing from you by [insert specific date].This second option is more reader-friendly as the reader does not need to do any arithmatic to work out the date.

    This is not concise because there is non-essential details and some words are written twice. This could be revised as follows: The university will launch a new program on 1 April.

    This is not clear, because the reader does not have an idea of the time frame and may not know what this refers to. A reader-friendly message would provide a specific time, deadline or time period, e.g. I will contact you by email on Friday about order number 6938.

    This is not courteous because this is an order with a threat. Rather than threatening students, it is more appropriate to state the required action and provide a reason. For exampple, To protect your belongings, please close the lab door.

    This is not complete. Although the reader knows the name of the person to contact, there is no contact information (e.g. email or telephone number) provided. A reader-friendly email will provide all the necessary details, e.g. I am afraid that I cannot help, but if you email Ms. Azuma on azuma@myemail.com, she should be able to help you. OR if you want to provide even better service I am afraid that I cannot help you, but I have forwarded your email to Ms. Azuma in the accounting department. Feel free to contact her directly on azuma@myemail.com.


    Can you explain the seven Cs of reader-friendly wriitng listed below?

    1. clear
    2. concise
    3. courteous
    4. correct
    5. complete
    6. coherent
    7. cohesive

    If you can, excellent. If not do not worry, the following units cover each of these concepts in more detail.