Some 2,500 years ago Confucius said: Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
He could easily have been talking about today’s business communication.
The way people talk and they way they write are often strikingly different. But why do people feel the need to overcomplicate their message just because they’re writing at work? What is it that makes the journey of words seemingly so much easier from brain to mouth than from brain to hand?
Often, overcomplicating your language stifles the message. When you’re in the pub and a friend calls and asks where you are, what do you say? ‘We’re in the pub’ – a simple, straightforward and unambiguous statement? Or – and we see worse than this every day – ‘we’re located in the establishment where fermented fruit and vegetable solutions are consumed for pleasure’?
Exactly. You keep your communication as simple as possible to get your message across. Business writing should do the same thing. All it takes is for the writer to follow a few simple steps:
- Read what you’ve written out loud. If it sounds unnatural, rewrite it.
- Remember your audience. Homeowners want to know you can ‘help them avoid flood damage in the future’, not that you have ‘strategies for the ongoing yearly improvement of adaptation plans in regards to increasing awareness of sudden critical climate-related rises in water levels.’
- If in doubt, use the simpler word. Is it ‘innovative’, or simply ‘new’? Are you ‘implementing’ or just ‘doing’?
- Avoid passive language. Say ‘we’re making significant investment’, not ‘significant investment will be made’.
- Imagine you’re telling a friend. If what you’ve written would make a close friend give you THAT look, it’s time to rewrite it.