Next time you put something on paper, remember:
Business writing needs to be clear and concise. Use the fewest number of words necessary. Following are a few examples of frequently used words and phrases that you can eliminate from your business letter vocabulary:
- “I have received your letter …” Delete entirely—would you be responding if the message hadn’t been received?
- “I wanted to thank you for …” Use “thank you”—“wanted” is past tense and means you did want to but changed your mind!
- “Feel free to contact me …” Use “contact me”—what does “feel free” really mean, and do those words add anything?
- “I am in eager anticipation of …” Use “I eagerly anticipate”—avoid “camouflaged” verbs.
- “Each and every employee …” Use either “each” or “every,” not both.
- “Due to the fact that …” Use “because.”
Be Aware of Tone
The tone reflects the writer’s attitude (positive or negative) and influences the reader’s attitude. Notice the difference in tone in the following two paragraphs:
Example 1: Bob Roberts is only 35 and already has accomplished more than many people. He has had the stamina to earn a master’s degree and has obtained a highly respectable manager’s job in a well-known firm. He is a solid citizen with a wife and two wonderful children. He is an accomplished person who has had the good sense to purchase a nice home in a beautiful suburb.
Example 2: Bob Roberts is already 35 years old and is stuck in a traditional and predictable lifestyle. He got the standard MBA degree and works for the usual large corporation. He lives in a suburb with all the other “young executive” types and has the standard two kids. It’s not difficult to figure out what the rest of his life will be like.
Editing for Success
Go through your document and literally circle weak words that contribute little meaning to your message. You should circle:
- Verbs such as “be,” “is,” “was,” “were,” “have,” “had,” “has,” “do,” “done,” “did,” “get,” “make,” and “made”
- Indefinite pronouns such as “it,” “this,” “these,” “that,” and “there”
- Vague nouns such as “aspects,” “thing,” “this job,” “this school”
- Overused adjectives, especially “very” and “really”
- Meaningless metaphors such as “right off the bat,” “out of my league,” “on top of things”
- Words that appear too often or add no new content
Next, look for a sentence that has two or more circles—you just found a place in your document that you can choose to revise.
- Begin to work on the sentence by reading it out loud and then looking away from the document. Think about whether your sentence conveys the intended meaning.
- Say it out loud using a few different words. Listen for better verbs and nouns you speak and jot down some of those words as you continue to rephrase the meaning over and over. For example, ask yourself “This what?” when you find a “this” by itself, and write down your response.
- Incorporate the new words into the sentence and say it again, this time using fewer words, using active verbs in place of helping verbs, and using only specific, concrete nouns that will help your audience understand your message clearly. Combine ideas and sentences whenever possible.
E-mail counts as written communication!
- Always use a specific subject line for e-mail titles. A message that doesn’t express the purpose of the e-mail will likely be deleted.
- Always write for the reader. The better able you are to get into your reader’s mind, the more effectively you will write.