Don’t Write To Impress. Write To Communicate.
When you write for business, you need to improve your concise writing abilities. Your readers are not interested in your big words, your flamboyant wordplay, and your tortuous sentence structure. They want you to communicate with them.
Concise writing is always better in business. It is more difficult to write succinctly, which is why most people don’t bother to do it. If you want to be a good business writer, it’s a skill you need to acquire.
10 Ways To Improve Your Concise Writing Abilities
1. Use short, commonly used words.
As Winston Churchill said, ‘Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.” Don’t try to hide behind big words. They will only make your weaknesses worse.
2. If you do not need a word, cut it out.
Look at your adverbs (strongly, gratuitously), your adjectives (big, great), and your qualifiers (very, somewhat). This is where you will find most of the words you don’t need. Ask yourself if they are necessary. If not, remove them.
3. Avoid nominalisations.
How many times do you smother a verb by turning it into a noun? (decide – decision, include – inclusion, grow – growth). Stop doing it. ‘The implementation of the system allowed for the stoppage of waste.’ is weaker than ‘We implemented the system to stop the waste.’
4. Avoid putting these five words too near a verb.
Avoid putting these five words too near a verb or a nominalised verb phrase: ‘take’, ‘give’, ‘make’, ‘conduct’, and ‘come’. They ruin the clarity of your sentences. Examples: ‘The company needs to take the results into consideration.’ should be ‘The company needs to consider the results.’ ‘The department needs to conduct a review of the situation.’ should be ‘The department needs to review the situation.’
5. Use strong, precise verbs and nouns.
This helps you to avoid the passive voice, reduce wordiness, and leave out modifiers and qualifiers.
6. Use declarative sentences.
E.B. White says: “There isn’t any thought or idea that can’t be expressed in a fairly simple declarative sentence, or in a series of fairly simple declarative sentences.”
A declarative sentence is a statement where the subject precedes the verb. It almost always ends with a full stop. Avoid commands (imperative sentences), questions (interrogative sentences), and exclamations (exclamatory sentences).
If you look at the examples below, you will see the tone and purpose of the first example is correct for business. The others are better for advertising, persuasive writing, and creative writing.
- Readers want to understand your writing. (Declarative)
- Make your writing understandable! (Imperative)
- Do readers want to understand your writing? (Interrogative)
- Readers understand your writing! (Exclamatory)
7. Avoid using verbs that make you ‘tell’.
These 10 verbs will unnecessarily increase your word count when you use them to describe something. Avoid them.
8. Remove redundant phrases.
Examples: ‘examined carefully’ should be ‘examined, ‘shouted loudly’ should be ‘shouted’, ‘glanced briefly’ should be ‘glanced’.
[Read: 50 Redundant Phrases To Avoid]
9. Use the active voice.
If you follow the rules of plain language, you will have to use the active voice. It helps you to simplify your message, and to say exactly what you want to say. The active voice removes ambiguity. We always know exactly who is doing what. The Hemingway App helps you identify passive voice.
[Read: The Passive Voice Explained]
10. Avoid jargon.
Overused phrases within an organisation or an industry lose all meaning. Please stop using: ‘synergy’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘win-win situation’, ‘low-hanging fruit’, and ‘pushing the envelope’. If you don’t say what you mean, your readers will ignore you.
If you follow these 10 tips, your ability to produce concise writing will improve.
If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme.