by Dr. Julie Miller
Writing with clarity is essential, but writing with brevity is more difficult, especially in business writing. For example, a manager might be so concerned about covering all bases that he or she uses too many words or vague sentences and concepts. Sure, it’s important that business writing be accurate, but it’s also important to keep communications brief.
The average attention span of adults is now about eight seconds. Whether we chalk this up to social media or the sensory bombardment of technology, we can only do so much to fight it. Successful business communicators must adapt and learn how to communicate spoken and written messages that are concise and on topic.
Writing concisely doesn’t always mean fewer total words, although practicing concise writing should eliminate unnecessary words and shorten overall word count. More important than cutting words, writers must use the most effective words to improve business writing. Learning how to write effectively improves how concise a message is and how easily readers grasp important points.
Here’s an example that a manager might write:
“In order to increase in-store and online sales of products with the highest profit margin, a training will be held for new and long-time sales staff, as well as customer service employees. These meetings will take place in two weeks.”
Instead, the manager can simply state: “We’ll hold training sessions in two weeks for sales and customer service staff aimed at improving product sales.” That’s 18 words versus 40 in the previous sentence, and it tells employees what they need to know. Plus, the second sentence is more active, meaning the verb takes action on the subject (an active sentence says, “The cow jumped over the moon,” and a passive sentence reads, “The moon was jumped over by the cow”). Active sentences make for more concise—and less ambiguous—writing.
Here are a few other tips for writing more effectively and therefore more concisely:
- Choose descriptive words when writing actively. For example, instead of “Tom kept trying to make his contributions sound important,” how about “Tom glorified his participation.”
- Eliminate unnecessary words. Concise writing calls for getting to the point without superfluous verbs, adjectives, and phrases (such as really, truly, in order to, etc.).
- Read, and even dissect, your sentences after writing. You should edit the sentences for typos and grammatical errors, and for clarity and brevity.
Learn more about concise business writing with IAAP’s first ever online writing courses! Go to learn@iaap and enter search term “business writing that counts” to learn more and register today!