Business writing is not the same as conversation.
‘How did you find your steak?’
‘I moved all that lettuce and there it was. What! You asked how I found my steak. Well, say what
We get away with a lot in conversational language as environmental context, body language and eye contact are there to support our intended meaning.
However, in written communication and business writing, there are only the words, tone and the context created in that document.
I very much like a term I heard recently, ‘the living language’. Whilst there are different interpretations of the term, I feel it describes the development of language. Language
is alive, changing all the time, and yes, it can be challenging at times.
Social media is changing the language and grammar of young minds and who knows where it will end. N. James (2007) says about language development that one generation’s ‘barbarism becomes the next generation’s common usage’. Mmmm.
The move away from history’s very formal, stifling and overdressed language (which perhaps still is used to bewilder and maybe bully readers) to the concise writing of plain English, where we say what we mean (persuasive though it maybe) can be confronting to some of us.
There is a relationship in business communication between shorter words, clear sentences, document presentation and an improved response and efficiency. Why? Because the message is clear and people understand. It makes sense.
Creative design in business writing
Creative design is now available to us in the preparation of our everyday documents and it does impact on our communication strategies in business. Good design is very influential in written messages and a wise writer uses it to full advantage.
- Typefaces, spacing, white space, layout, headings, formatting, bulleted lists, hyperlinks, graphics and images are all part of document design and we have them at our fingertips.
- Then there is the choice of words, grammar and punctuation. Have you seen the words ‘advance planning’ in promotional documentation? What planning is retrospective? What is ‘alternative choice’? Is not choice about an alternative? Overdressing words is a false economy and merely adds to the heaviness of the document’s tone by introducing clutter.
- Some writers use clutter to impress readers. Clutter relates to unnecessary detail or unnecessary words in your document and serves to hide or diffuse the impact of a message. Instead of saying ‘the purpose of this report is to outline’, try ‘this report outlines’. ‘John is responsible for managing the department’ reads better as ‘John manages the department’.
- A useful tip to separate contributing words from clutter words is to get that red pen and read your document quickly; intuitively underline words you think are important or central to your argument. This should give you an outline on which to develop up an improved paper with no clutter.
Promote integrity and trust in your business communications. Say what you mean but be respectful. People read between the lines and honest communication rings very true.
Personally, I like punctuation. It is so powerful. How would you punctuate this unassuming and lame sentence?
‘A woman without her man is nothing.’
- ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing.’
- ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing.‘
I like the 2nd one personally. The unassuming sentence is now powerful.
But then I have motive, agenda and am being a little bit of a bully.
To be published www.flyingsolo.com.au February 2012.