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Jim Rohn, the American entrepreneur and philosopher, famously said, “The more you know, the less you need to say.” If you really understand something, you can summarize it in a few words.  Want a quick test of how well people understand?  Ask them to explain their company’s mission.  If they give you paragraphs that sound like an MBA textbook, they probably don’t get it.  Those who truly know can explain it in a phrase and give you a clear image of what the company does.

This same problem plagues business writing.  Whether creating training material, articles, reports, resumes, or emails, most of us tend to use too many words.  The following tips can help you write more concisely at work:

  1. Get the thought out first:  Write first, edit second. Don’t be too concerned with word choice on your first draft or you will lose track of your main points. Get the idea out of your head and onto paper first, then revise to sharpen how you say it.
  2. Look for dangling lines:  Look for paragraphs whose last line contains less than five words.  Try to cut words or reword sentences so that every paragraph ends with a full line.
  3. Shorten paragraphs:    Look for paragraphs longer than eight lines. Anything more starts becoming overwhelming for the reader.  Can you split the paragraph into two blocks each with its own topic sentence?  Better yet, can you reduce the words so it takes less than 8 lines?
  4. Change the word order: Look for prepositional phrases that you can convert into possessives or adverbs and adjectives.  Instead of “the problems of writers”, say “writer’s problems”.  Instead of “sentences that are easy to understand,” try “easily understandable sentences.”
  5. Eliminate emphasis words:  Look for words that emphasize an adjective like “really,” “very,” or “just”.  Substitute single, more descriptive words that convey the same meaning.  For example, instead of “really big,” use “gigantic”.  Instead of “very tired,” use “exhausted.”

Time is the enemy of good writing.  The less time you take to revise, the murkier your message becomes.  The more precise you are, the more people will understand.  The more concise you are, the more people will read to the end.

Contact Comprehensive Learning Solutions if you would like to learn more about how to write effectively for business.