Better Business Writing – Engage readers – Tighten & brighten – Make your Case
By Bryan A. Garner
SECTION 2 – DEVELOPING YOUR SKILLS
BE RELENTELESLY CLEAR
Clarity can be a double edged sword.
Adopt the reader’s perspective. Always judge clarity from the reader’s standpoint not your own. Try to show the draft to a colleague for a fresh view and fresh set of eyes and ask their opinion.
Ideal should be writing so unmistakably that the readers can’t misunderstand or misinterpret.
Keep your Language Simple
Optimal average for readable sentences is no more than 20 words.
Show, Don’t Tell
Be specific enough that you lead your readers to draw their own conclusions, as opposed to simply expressing your opinions without support and hoping people will buy them.
NOTE: Write letter to sharpen your skills. When you write a letter, you’re connecting with one particular recipient. Letters help you build goodwill with people. Develop the habit to write a few letters a week. Make many of them handwritten notes. Try limiting to one page, make it warm and friendly. Use “you” more than “I” and use tasteful, mature stationery.
Concrete business writing is persuasive as it is evidence based, clear, and memorable. Share information, not just your opinion.
E.g. In marketing don’t just tell you’ll save your clients money. Say how much money you’ve saved others. Mention names who you have worked for and saved, include testimonials, saying how happy your clients are.
LEARN TO SUMMARIZE ACCURATELY
- A good summary is focused and specific – it gets to the point. It lays the foundation for what’s to follow.
- Summarize each section with a sentence and address the “five W’s” (who, what, when, where, why) and how.
- Brevity without substances is worthless. Provide information only the readers need to understand – no more no less.
WASTE NO WORDS
- Make every word count.
- Remove all the words that aren’t performing a real function.
- Replace rambling statements, unnecessary repetition, and verbose expressions by shorter sharper alternatives.
- Ruthlessly cut words from your first draft, so long as you remain faithful to sounds and rhythms of normal, down to earth English.
- Tighten your prose by removing inessential proposition, replacing abstract – ion nouns with action verbs where possible, and replacing words be-verb phrases with more direct simple verbs.
BE PLAIN SPOKEN
Avoid bizspeak. It is mission-critical to be plain spoken. You want to sound like a person, not an institution.
It takes experience to bring you written voice into line with your spoken voice and to polish it so well that no one notices the polish.
Writing plainly means expressing ideas as straight-forwardly as you can – without sacrificing meaning or tone.
Increasing as passage’s readability is not same as “dumbing it down”.
Avoid boilerplate phrases that weigh down your language and suggest lazy thinking.