Tips for Better Writing

Today is Thursday, so this post is on communication skills.

Clear, concise writing is one of three important communication skills.  Here are four enemies of clear, concise writing.

  • Too many words.
  • Too many polysyllabic (big) words.
  • Passive voice.
  • Cliches.

In this post, I’d like to focus on the first and third of these problems.

Too Many Words

I write in a pretty straightforward, clear manner.  However, when I reread my writing, I usually find that I need to cut, rather than add words.  Here are some sentences that I’ve picked out of some of the business correspondence I’ve received lately.  All of them have too many words.  Below, you will find the wordy sentence, followed by my suggested rewrite.

Wordy Sentence:
At this point in time, we should, or perhaps I should say we must, proceed to examine our policy of sales incentives.
We need to examine our sales incentive policy now.

Wordy Sentence:
I was unaware of the fact that your device could be used for security purposes.
I didn’t know your device could be used for security.

Wordy Sentence:
The reason I failed to reply is that I was not apprised of the fact until yesterday that somehow the report had been unavoidably delayed.
I didn’t reply because I didn’t know until yesterday that the report was delayed.

You can see that I was able to cut down the length of each sentence without changing the meaning.

Passive Voice

The active voice is always better than the passive voice.  Here are some examples that illustrate my point.

Passive Voice:
Plans for the conference will be made by my assistant.
Active Voice:
My assistant will plan the conference.

Passive Voice:
An error has been discovered by our staff.
Active Voice:
Our staff discovered an error.

Passive Voice:
The mistake in billing was rectified by the supplier posthaste.
Active Voice:
The supplier corrected the billing mistake quickly.

The common senses point here is simple.  Reading what you write is the key to all of this.  When you read your writing, look for words that you can eliminate and for ways to use the active, rather than passive voice.  If you put these two common sense suggestions to work, your writing will improve greatly.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website for more common sense.

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


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