Crisp copy is the focus of an Eastern Canada Farm Writers’ Association professional development seminar, tomorrow afternoon at Syngenta’s headquarters in Guelph. Top marks to Syngenta internal communications specialist and association president Clare Illingworth and the rest of the very capable executive for offering members these sessions.

Clare is a former SPARK writer. She and other ex-SPARKers and agricultural communications students (@Stefanie_N, @coffeeshoeswine, among others) who are now association members may remember these tips from the old and not-so-old days:

Cats, such as Smudge, would likely eat fish, if given the chance.

1. Instead of starting a sentence with “There is…” start it with the subject or object. For example, let There is a new soybean disease lurking in Kent County become A new soybean disease is lurking in Kent County.

2. The first five words of your lead are the ones that really count. So, rather than The Eastern Canada Farm Writers’ Association is pleased to announce Clare Illingworth is this year’s president, instead try Clare Illingworth has been elected president of the Eastern Canada Farm Writers’ Association.

3. Eliminate “of” as much as possible — it’s often unnecessary. For example, pieces of cow bone effortlessly become cow bone pieces, simply by removing the of.

4. Strive for acronym-free copy. In second reference, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs can simply be the ministry, rather than OMAFRA.

5. Write in the active voice. Cats eat fish is so much more crisp than Fish is eaten by cats (i.e. the passive voice).

See you at the session!