Writing at work shouldn’t be all that different to writing an email or note to friends and family. Your main goal should still be to communicate a message quickly and clearly. It can be tempting to use jargon, corporate speak and big words to make your ideas seem larger and more important. But over complex language doesn’t make you sound smarter and it can make your readers disengage.
Which do you prefer to read?
- “While express-way users are expected to receive considerable benefits from using the project, the other CBD-oriented traffic is likely to receive a disbenefit due to marginally increased travel times created by the additional traffic.”
- “Express-way drivers will benefit from using the new road. However, drivers going through the CBD will face longer travel times because of the extra traffic.”
Which gets the point across best?
- “If there are any points on which you require explanation or further particulars we shall be glad to furnish such additional details as may be required by telephone.”
- “If you have any questions, you can call us.”
These might seem like extreme examples but if you take a quick look at some of the corporate material that comes across your desk, or into your inbox, you’ll find they’re really not that unusual.
Using plain language makes good business sense. You’re able to communicate well with your clients and colleagues and give them what they want: information that is quick and easy to understand. These days, whether you’re writing an email or a formal report, most of your writing will be read on a screen – and more often than not on a small phone screen. Using simple and direct content and breaking up your information with logical headings and dot points can help keep your writing friendly for devices and makes it easy for your reader to get a sense of your content at a glance.
If you want as many of your readers as possible to quickly and easily understand your content, word choice is vital. When deciding which word to use, choose the simplest and shortest option that gets your meaning across. For example, use 'start' instead of 'commence'; use 'must' instead of 'are required to' and use 'aim' instead of 'endeavour to'.
Our top 5 tips for clear and concise corporate writing
- Keep your sentences short
- Be concise, direct and to the point
- Use headings and dot points to break up longer content
- Use the more personal and direct ‘you’ and ‘we’
- Use everyday language – choose short and simple words over long and complex – and avoid jargon.