In this age of instant communication, doing more with less, and remainingnimble to stay ahead of the competition, employees must roll up their shirtsleeves and dive in at a moment’s notice to adapt to changes and react to challenges.
To survive in this rapid-fire environment, our tools have changed, our processes have changed, and our use of the written language has changed. To get and keep the attention of those you communicate with, you need to adopt some new writing strategies—what we call Shirtsleeve Strategies—to keep your audience engaged while they are multi-tasking and moving on to the next “opportunity” crossing their desks.
1. Use short, familiar words.
Write to express ideas in a simple, clear manner — not to impress your reader with an extensive vocabulary or fancy writing style.
2. Get rid of word weeds.
Our everyday speech is cluttered with habitual redundancies and unnecessary words, but they have no place in today’s lean business writing.
3. Eliminate time-wasters.
We tend to include many time-wasters simply because they are a habit. Why “on a daily basis,” when “daily” will do? Or “in a timely manner,” when “promptly” works. Small shortcuts save time and add clarity.
4. Avoid stuffiness and clichés.
A good guideline for today’s business writing is: If you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, don’t put it in writing. Use a conversational tone.
5. Be positive in tone.
We all respond more favorably to a positive tone than to a negative tone. Negativity produces instant reader resistance.
6. Be specific and concrete.
Vague or abstract terms do not convey immediate meaning to the reader. Use words readers can picture or that convey specific information.
7. Don’t jargonize.
Avoid unfamiliar jargon or bureaucratese, as this can confuse readers and distract from the message. Overused trendy buzzwords also weaken the message.
8. Make items parallel.
Information is more rapidly absorbed in parallel form than when non-parallel. Parallelism also adds clarity, elegance, and symmetry to writing.
9. Keep terms consistent.
To avoid confusing readers, use the same terms throughout the document.
Fat-Free Writing by Carol Andrus
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