The Quest For Plain Business English - Will You Join The Crusade?


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We've all been the victims of “business-ese" at some stage – you know, the pompous, overblown, confusing jargon some people love to throw at their customers in an effort to appear educated and professional. Some of us have even been that pompous writer! But what's so wrong with plain English? Will our customers think less of us? In fact, recent studies indicate that simple, focused business writing conveys a more friendly, enthusiastic, likeable and energetic message to our clients. So…. . are you ready to join the crusade?

Just Write It The Way You Would Say It!

The single most important piece of advice anyone can receive in order to communicate well with customers and staff is this: write the way you talk. It's that simple. Try to imagine that you're actually standing in front of your target reader, and write simply and openly. You'll soon get the hang of it. After a while, the “staff amenities facility" will sound slightly ridiculous when you could have just said “lunchroom".

A Few Tips On Writing The Way You Talk:

If you're a typical bureaucratic writer, bear in mind the following suggestions:

  • Use ordinary words
  • Use the active voice
  • Use more personal pronouns
  • Use a variety of punctuation
  • Use contractions

Consider this example of bad business writing: Subsequent to the passage of new staff policy guidelines, it is incumbent upon all employees to peruse the current workplace policy document, and advise management of any perceived safety breaches in the work environment.

And now, let's re-write that using the above 5 suggestions: We've created a new safety policy – located in the latest version of the staff manual – which gives you some background information on what to look out for. If you notice a potential hazard around the office, please let us know.

The second example is just as professional, but speaks directly to the reader in a much more friendly and open way. And isn't that the way you'd want people to perceive your business?

Never use an “impressive" word when a simple one will do! Writing with ordinary words doesn't mean your writing is ordinary. Quite the opposite. Just remember – every impressive word you use makes your reader's job that much harder.

So, join the crusade! Write the way you speak. Use simple words, and actively “talk" to your reader in a friendly and open manner. And next time someone tells you that they're a Global Client-Facing Communications Facilitator, you can smile to yourself and remember a time when the person at the front desk was the Receptionist.

Vanessa Browne is a business author and management consultant. Visit the website My Business for business writing advice , including a comprehensive range of free business document templates , business letters and outsourced writing options.


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