Give Your Readers a Break—Pick One!

In wanting to cover many aspects of a topic, business writers sometimes throw down so many variables that readers have no way to gauge the importance of each. They feel weighed down trying! Look at these examples:

  1. The professor included and provided a methodology for continuing the effort.
  2. The state and local leaders developed and drafted numerous statutes.
  3. We need to appreciate and understand the factors affecting the time and place.

The “Pick One” Principle

You can lighten your readers’ load by applying the “pick one” principle. You’ll find it works for all kinds of writing—emails, reports, manuscripts, and more.

The “pick one” principle asks: “Which word better describes what you want to say—the word before or after the and?” Then pick the one that adds more emphasis to your meaning.

In Example 1, which word better conveys the meaning—included or provided? In this context, provided can cover the meaning for both—that is, if something is provided, we can assume it’s included. Pick one: provided.

The professor provided a methodology for continuing the effort.

Example 2 has the word and in two places, making the sentence long-winded. For developed and drafted, the more apt word is drafted because something can’t be drafted without being developed first. Pick one: drafted.

“Pick one” also applies to making a single-word substitution. For example, state and local could be changed to government without altering the meaning in this context.

The government leaders drafted numerous statutes.

In Example 3, because appreciate and understand are so close in meaning, using both is like saying it twice. “Pick one” to streamline the writing. For time and place, we could substitute a single word: situation.  

We need to understand the factors affecting the situation.

Good Rule of Thumb to Follow

When you reread anything you’ve written, find all the places you’ve used and, then apply the “pick one” principle wherever possible. That way, you won’t dilute the meaning of your message or needlessly weigh down your readers.

Give them a break. Pick one!

Barbara McNichol is passionate about helping administrative professionals add power to their pen. To assist in this mission, she has created a Word Trippers Tips resource to quickly find the right word when it matters most. It allows you to improve your writing through excellent resources in your inbox, including a webinar, crossword puzzles, and a Word Tripper of the Week for 52 weeks. Enjoy a $30 discount at checkout with the code ODI at www.wordtrippers.com/odi.

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