In a memo to his staff in 1940, Winston Churchill wrote:
“To do our work, we all have to read a mass of papers. Nearly all of them are far too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”
It’s 2019, and you’d be forgiven for thinking nothing much has changed in the world of writing for work. Many writers simply take too long to get to the point. They choose wordiness over brevity, increasing the chances of confusing their readers.
Remember, in business writing you are trying to use the most economical language, not trying to sound important. When it comes to business writing you want to sound professional, get your message across clearly, help your reader understand and save yourself some time.
So, try these 5 Steps to Clearer Business Writing
- Keep sentences to 15 – 25 words.
This helps avoid rambling, increases clarity, minimises unnecessary chit-chat and helps your reader get through the document/email quickly.
- Lead from your conclusion, not to it.
We’re talking about business writing. You’re not writing a novel, nor are you writing an academic argument. Get straight to the point. Tell your reader up front what action you want or what your purpose is for writing. Then fill in the details they need.
- Ideally, use only one thought per sentence.
This forces you to be succinct.
- Vary sentence structure and length to improve interest and readability.
Too many sentences the same length will have a ‘machine gunning’ effect on the reader. The rhythm of the writing is monotonous. You’ll run the risk of boring your reader to death.
- Preferably, stay in the active voice.
Aim for no more than 10% passive voice throughout a work document. Passive voice increases verbosity.
We cover all these points, and more, in some of our half and full day business writing workshops. Happy to provide further information – just contact us and we’ll have a chat about what you might need.