More super-quick tips for better business writing

See our earlier tips: 1- 25 and 26-50.

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51. Yes, it is OK to start sentences with ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘or’ and ‘but’.

52. Don’t say “following” when you mean “after”.

53. Try copying the style of your daily paper. It’s guaranteed to be more readable than most business docs.

54. Edit with a knife, not a pen. Only add words if they’re absolutely necessary.

55. Write about the stories that illustrate what you want to say, not the strategy behind it.

56. Pin a list of banned words on your wall. It forces you to rethink whenever you’re tempted by jargon.

57. Never write a sentence longer than 24 words. That’s the point they get hard to follow.

58. Use “you” more than “we”. Count the instances of each word and rewrite if necessary.

59. Overpoliteness can sound rude. Compare “at your earliest convenience” with “as soon as you can”.

60. Address your reader directly: “download the guidelines now” not “employees should download…”

61. Say “based on”, not “based around”. Think about it: bases sit below things, not around them.

62. No one will ever complain that your writing is too easy to read.

63. Rewriting your work isn’t a sign of failure – it’s an essential part of the process.

64. There’s a reason your spellchecker underlines “learnings”. Replace this non-word with “lessons”.

65. Is there any more meaningless adjective than “meaningful”? Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

66. Whenever you sit down to write, keep in mind Billy Wilder’s 1st rule of filmmaking: “Don’t be boring”.

67. The word “solutions” is usually redundant. “Building solutions” v “building”: what’s the difference?

68. Save keystrokes by ditching “nevertheless” for “but”.

69. As Orwell said, if it’s possible to cut a word, do. A phrase like “by means of” is 2 words too long.

70. Never use “myself” when you mean “I” or “me”. It’s not more polite – just grammatically wrong.

71. Ditch “there is/there are”. “We won for two reasons” is punchier than “there are two reasons we won”.

72. Tempted to use the phrase “due to the fact that”? Why not simply say “as”?

73. Made a mistake? “I’m sorry” is much more powerful than “we regret that”. Which would you rather hear?

74. Avoid Latinisms like “per annum” and “per capita”. Friendlier to say “a year” and “a person”.

75. As your teachers said at exam time: just answer the question. What info is your reader asking for?

3 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Clare, How did you arrive at 24 words as the maximum sentence length? It’s not syllable-dependent? Moving on, I particularly like #55. Tell me what time it is, not how you made the watch. Don’t take the long way around the barn. Long tunnel, no cheese.

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Good point, Brad. Though anyone who’s a regular reader of my blog will already be using short words, I hope!

  3. […] More super-quick tips for better business writing […]

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