The Importance Of Clarity In Business Writing
Steve Allen, who founded the Tonight Show, once said: “A writer’s style should not place obstacles between his ideas and the minds of his readers.” In a business environment, a large percentage of our communications is written. From presentations to memos and emails, these documents are responsible for communicating a lot about a company’s day-to-day operations as well as its long-term strategic goals.
However, the challenge comes in when we have written communication which is confusing and does not convey the messaging behind the communication clearly. This often happens when the writer of the documentation is trying to use ‘fancy’ language (in other words, a high register) without properly understanding how to use this genre of language or when the writer uses long, rambling sentences that do not have a clear point evident.
So, to help you clarify your business communication, we’ve put together tips to help you keep your writing short, simple and to the point.
When people try to use ‘fancy’ language to make what they’re writing seem ‘important’, they tend to use nouns when verbs would be sufficient and, as a result, make the sentence simpler as well as easier to understand. For example, instead of saying “My understanding of what you say is correct”, rather say “I understand what you are saying”.
Always Have One Golden Thread
According to the American Writers and Artists Institute, a golden thread is one unifying idea that runs throughout your copy. So, for example, if you’re speaking about home loans and why people should take these out, don’t – in the middle of the copy – start talking about home insurance.
The same principle applies in a sentence. When you write a sentence, keep it to one topic and keep it short and simple because if you make it longer – and diversify your topics – you’ll end up confusing the reader about what you’re trying to say.
To illustrate, “The cat sat on the mat” is extremely understandable – you know exactly where the cat sat. Also, you know exactly what the author is trying to tell you. However, if you say “The cat – who had a grey coat – ate the cream before he sat on the mat”, the fact that the cat sat on the mat is there however you’re not sure what the author wants to highlight – the fact that the mat was sat upon or if the cat ate the cream.
Minimise The Commas
At school, we were always taught that you should insert a comma into a piece of text when you want the author to take a breath. However, this could lead to commas being placed in the middle of a phrase which distorts the meaning of what the author is trying to say. If you’re ever in doubt if you should be inserting a comma or a full stop, go for a full stop as this will make the sentence shorter and make the meaning clearer. If you want the best odds online of making an impact, short and sweet is the key.
In business communication, it is super important to be clear in what you say because, if you aren’t, you could end up creating a whole lot of trouble in your organisation.