More words don’t always translate into more meaning.
That’s why it’s important to avoid wordiness in your writing, especially in a business setting. Your colleagues’ and customers’ time is precious. They need to know what you offer, need, or suggest quickly and concisely.
If you find yourself rambling, it might be due to a lack of focus in your message. If you are unclear about “why” you’re writing, the “what” and “how” you’re writing will give it away.
Chisel the Point
To chisel the point you want to make with precision and clarity, take time to do this simple exercise:
1. Sum up the point of your communication in one sentence.
2. Take a step back and decide what supporting information you absolutely need to share to get your point across. This might mean referring to research or someone else’s communications.
3. After you’ve made your case, run through this checklist:
• Did I put any unnecessary facts in the message?
• Did I add any phrases that weren’t relevant to the point?
• Did I consider what my reader expected from my message?
• Did I attempt to make the sentences flow?
• Did I get straight to the point or take too many detours?
Avoiding detours is important. One way is to resist the urge to use “filler words” that come across as fluff. This includes dodgy phrases such as:
• It goes without saying…
• The fact of the matter is…
• In other words…
• Further to my point…
• To be honest with you…
Get with the Whack Wordiness Formula
If you were writing fiction, you would definitely steer clear of following a formula. But when it comes to writing clear, concise business communication, you want to follow these simple guidelines to whack wordiness.
Use no more than:
• 5 paragraphs per page.
• 5 sentences per paragraph.
• 15 words per sentence.
• 3 syllables per word.
The minutes it takes to shave your message, reduce wordiness, and share only the salient points will win you points with your readers. This might feel clunky at first, but like any new routine – diet, exercise, sleep – you’ll get into a rhythm. It will become second nature to you.
Take a Practice Run
Be sure to take a practice run at reducing the wordiness in your correspondence. Pull up something you sent recently…something that was important but hasn’t been addressed by your readers yet. Then run it through this filter:
Count the number of paragraphs. Fewer than 5?
Count the number of sentences in a paragraph. Fewer than 5?
Count the number of words in a paragraph. Fewer than 15?
Now circle the words that contain 4 syllables or more, such as dis·pro·por·tion·ate·ly.
How did you do? Be honest! Did you identify areas where you could have saved your reader time?
Detours dilute your message and can affect how you’re perceived by your audience. If you follow these steps, you’ll gain clues about where your rambling takes you.
Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pen. To assist them, she has created Word Trippers Tips to quickly find the right word when it matters most. Word Trippers Tips is a subscription program that includes a webinar, crossword puzzles, “cheat sheets,” and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Go to www.wordtrippers.com/odi
Make friends with good writing. A shift in attitude—from resisting to embracing—just might make all the difference. And here’s the payoff. When you improve your writing skills, you advance your career and make a positive impression on others.
Here’s a fresh resource that features must-have skills to jumpstart your resolve: an e-guide called—ta da—Making Friends with Good Writing.