Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Making your writing concise, part of Business Writing Principles.
- CEOs often tell their employees that they will read only one page. If you have only one page to give your entire message, each word has to count, however, a disclaimer before we begin, one or two extra words will not necessarily turn good writing into awful writing. However, people who are wordy tend not to limit wordiness to a word or two here or there. That three-page memo that won't get read can be reduced to a one-page memo that will be read.
The first step in applying the principles of effective business writing is to understand the principle, so what exactly is wordiness? Various types of wordiness exist. Let's begin with wordy phrases. Do you recognize why they are all wordy? We don't have good disasters. Have you ever been asked to pay for a gift, do we postpone to the past or plan after something is finished? Listen to this wordy sentence.
The reader will know that red is a color, round is a shape, and that July is a month. A more concise version is: The first version had 18 words. The revised version has nine words. Another kind of wordiness is meaningless expressions and words that you may have heard used repeatedly and continue to use them without analyzing their wordiness. Due to the fact that can always be replaced with one word, because, hit your mental delete button and get rid of that phrase right now.
Feel free, as in feel free to call me, has absolutely no meaning, use please call if you need more information. Other kinds of meaningless phrases you might be tempted to use include I am writing to inform you, obviously you are writing, I have the document in my hand, and that's what communication does, it informs. I have received your letter, if you hadn't received it, you wouldn't be writing about it. You will be pleased to know or I am happy to inform you, readers usually aren't concerned about the writer's emotional state, I am happy, and don't want the writer to tell them as readers what their emotional state should be, you will be happy.
Yet another wordy category is what is sometimes referred to as rubber stamps or stock phrases. These are expressions that are used over and over and because of their overuse have lost their effectiveness. You've probably used these and seen these used multiple times. At first glance you might think that these expressions are used to be nice to your reader, but in fact they can have quite the opposite effect.
It says to your reader that he or she isn't important enough to think of anything personalized to say. Sometimes adding only a word or two can personalize the message, if you have any more questions about how to care for your new sofa, let us know. That's much more personalized. Wordiness can also result when weak verbs are used. The verb is the strongest word in the sentence. Which of these has a stronger sound? 12 words reduced to six words.
Not only is the second message stronger, it's more concise. Look for camouflage verbs when you revise, verbs that have been turned into nouns usually with a T, I, O, N, such as confirmation instead of confirm in the example. Expletives or fillers, the indefinite it and their are also in this category of wordiness creators. Why not all employees will be notified about the conference? 13 words reduced to eight words.
Make that more concise. That's a four word reduction. See the difference, hear the difference. Tell yourself that you are being charged 100 dollars for each word used, you will be surprised at the number or words that are on the chopping block. So why is conciseness important? Your reader is busy and your message will compete with dozens of other messages for the reader's attention. Concise wording results in fewer words for that busy reader.
Readers appreciate writing that says what needs to be said in the fewest number of words possible. Concise writing is a time saver for your reader and will help ensure that your entire message is read.
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- Define business writing.
- Describe how to make your writing concise and complete.
- Identify the elements of a clear message.
- List examples of concrete requests.
- Use a writing process to avoid common errors.
- Address common grammatical and punctuation errors.
- Identify special considerations for emails, reports, and memos.