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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Business Writing Tips: Update Your Writing!

I am writing to thank you for reading this blog. Is this an acceptable business sentence? Today’s business writing needs to be concise because people are too busy to read unnecessary words. How would you change this sentence to make it more concise?

Why do we use extra words when we write? Think back to school—remember minimum word counts? If we had a 500-word essay due, why not use make a decision rather than decide? We learned some bad habits—for business writing. Length was rewarded in school, but it’s not needed in business. Here are four concise writing tips:

The first sentence of this blog is an example of a long lead-in. It’s a hard habit to break: This letter is to tell you that… or I just wanted to let you know that… Sometimes the words before that are unnecessary. You can eliminate introductory phrases, although some people think sentences sound too curt without these lead-ins. Perhaps--although maybe we’re just not used to it. Try it; let me know what you think.

Redundant words--two words commonly used together that have the same meaning--are funny, if you think about it. Advanced notice and advanced warning—notices and warnings are given in advance. Some other redundant expressions are final outcome, exactly identical, combined together, and true facts. Know any others?

Some verbs are disguised as nouns; remember the example to increase the word count—make a decision? Often, we create nouns from verbs; for example, decide, calculate, and discuss become make a decision, make a calculation, and have a discussion. Using the verb makes our writing stronger, easier to understand.

Wordy expressions can often be reduced to one word; using the one-word counterpart can update your writing skills. Do you use any of these phrases?

Due to the fact that = because
Are of the opinion = believe
At this point in time = now
In the amount of = for
On a monthly basis = monthly

Revise your writing to be concise. William Zinsser, author of several writing books—including On Writing Well, says: “Be grateful for every word you can cut. Writing improves in direct ratio to the things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there.”