One of the easiest things you can do to improve your
writing is to stop using unnecessarily long words. They slow the pace of your
text and can sound old-fashioned and pompous. The same is true of wordy
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use long words at all. Where
there’s no sensible short alternative, then it’s fine to use a long word if
your readers will understand it. But don’t use a long word where a short word
would work just as well.
“Don’t use a long word where a short word would work just as well.”
At the top of my blacklist of long words are utilise,
numerous, approximately and necessitate. Do these words often appear in your
texts? If so, try replacing them with use, many, about and require. The short
words will give your writing pace and punch while creating a relaxed, confident
If you feel resistant to making this simple change, ask
yourself why. Perhaps, like many people, you believe that using long words makes
you appear professional and educated.
“At the top of my blacklist of long words are utilise, numerous, approximately and necessitate.”
It’s certainly true that business writing is often
peppered with long words, management-speak and jargon. But that doesn’t mean
it’s good practice to use these words. Rather it shows that many people in
business are not very skilled writers.
If you’re still not convinced, just look at my headline.
Impressed? Of course you aren’t. Similarly, you won’t impress anyone by using
unnecessarily long words.
Unless you are writing a literary work, which is a form of
artistic expression, your purpose in writing is usually to inform or persuade your
audience. Often, you want to do both.
In the fund industry, certainly, informing and persuading
the intended audience is the aim of almost every piece of writing that is
produced. It’s good to remember this when you sit down to write.
“The purpose of writing is to inform and persuade your audience”
If you remind yourself that the purpose of writing is to
inform and persuade your audience, you can avoid many common writing mistakes.
The first and perhaps most lethal of these is to ignore your audience.
If you want to convince your readers, it’s obvious that you should have some idea who they are. It’s equally obvious that you should think about what interests them and that you should try to avoid confusing them or boring them to death.
“A lot of business writing is not suitable for the intended audience; sometimes, it’s not suitable for any audience”
These points are obvious, but writers often don’t address
them, particularly in a business context. A lot of business writing is
confusing and boring. Often, it’s not suitable for the intended audience; sometimes,
it’s not suitable for any audience.
Perhaps it is encrusted in arcane jargon. Perhaps it is
lifeless because all the sentences are structured in the same way. Perhaps it
fails to engage the reader because it is too impersonal.
These are all problems that can be fixed. The first step on
the way – and the best way to avoid these problems in the first place – is to
remember why we write.