We spend a lot of time reading each day at work: emails, procedures, reports and updates. In an environment overloaded by the written word, our challenge is to keep our readers interested in our message. If we lose our reader, we won’t get the results we need.
1. Get to the point
Nobody has time for waffle, all those fluffy words that fill up the page but don’t add any meaning or value to your communication. Say what you mean without padding it out or rambling on about issues unrelated to your topic. Rather than trying to reach an arbitrary word limit, include only what the reader needs to know. If you stay focused, so will your reader.
2. Say it once
When writing a first draft, it’s common to repeat yourself, no matter how well you’ve planned the communication. It’s essential to review your draft at least once before you pass it up the line. Check for ideas repeated in different words in another section of the communication and eliminate the repetition.
Watch out for repetitious phrases such as ‘large in size’, ‘advance planning’, ‘fewer in number’, ‘revert back’, ‘join together’ and ‘period of time’. The longer the report, the more likely you will have repeated yourself, but even in a short email, you could find unnecessary repetition.
3. Say it in plain English
I know it’s tempting to use big words and long complex sentences as a way of impressing your reader. But it doesn’t work, particularly if your reader doesn’t understand the terminology or doesn’t have time to reread long sentences to work out what they mean. Complicating your message may also give the impression that you’re trying to hide something. This could make your reader distrustful of your motives.
Wordy and complex communications are a serious concern for both government and private organisations. Twenty or more years ago, wordiness might have been acceptable, or even expected in government and business writing. This is no longer the case and your writing will just come across as old school.
Learning to write well in plain English is always worth the effort. Concise Writing Consultancy specialises in helping organisations transform difficult-to-understand communications into plain English, including reports, intranet sites, fact sheets and brochures. Our goal is to increase efficiency and enhance your reputation through clear, concise communications that are focused on the needs of your reader.