It doesn’t take much to improve the quality of most business writing. Just muttering “shorter, clearer, stronger” in each editor’s ear twice a day will take you a surprisingly long way.
This down-to-earth “how-to” guide for editors and writers will take you a long way in the right direction.
- Know who your readers are.
Consumers or businesses, sales or engineering, office-based or customer-facing — who are these people you’re talking to?
- Think about how long they’ve got.
If they’re looking for quick bullet points, don’t swamp them with pages of prose.
- Vary the words you use.
If you have things you must say more than once, change the wording or turn the sentence round.
- Weed out your spare adjectives.
Try removing all purely descriptive words. Put them back one at a time, but only on merit.
- Choose vigorous, vivid verbs.
It’s the words of movement and action that pack life and energy into your writing.
- Be active, not passive.
“People write letters” is clearer, shorter and stronger than “Letters are written by people.”
- Shorten your sentences.
The full stop or full point is the most powerful stylistic tool in English. Use it. Often.
- Break it up and lose the grey.
Use headings, paragraphs and bulleted lists to let light into the text. Give people headlines they can scan.
- Stick to your house style.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” said Emerson. Have as few rules as possible, but enforce them.
- Keep a dictionary within reach.
Use it several times a day and try to develop a nose for words you might get wrong.