Business Communicators are generally not paid by the word, yet one might think otherwise considering the wordiness of many Business Communications.
Of course, adding detail and background information to a communication is often useful and necessary when it is germane and relevant to the central message of the communication. Conversely, adding verbiage just to fill a page will bore most readers. And when readers are bored, it is a safe bet a communication will only be scanned at best and ignored at worse.
Most writers would agree that the most effective letters, memos, and reports are those that are written clearly and succinctly. Thus said, one has to question why any writer would feel compelled to obscure a communication with a lot of unnecessary text. In other words, why write a book when a chapter will do?
Granted, communicators need to write expansively enough in order to properly cover a subject, but many times this is taken to the extreme. The reasons for this practice are varied, but most would seem to fall under one or more of the following categories:
* Overwriting to make a communication “sound” more official
* Copying or aping another’s Writing Style
* Confusing “succinctness” with “incompleteness”
* Engaging in “Spin”
* Playing politics
* Showcasing one’s writing talents
While each of these reasons are distinctly different, they all share the common pitfall of ignoring the needs of the reader. With this in mind, it is important for Business Communicators to be sensitive to this and learn to compose and structure their writing with a reader’s eye.
An effective way to do this is to follow a writing process that builds in reader-friendliness with each step. The following ten steps outlines such a process:
1. Identify the purpose of the communication.
2. Use bullets to outline key points.
3. Expand the main points into a formal draft.
4. Eliminate irrelevant details.
5. Amend for brevity – use straight-forward language.
6. Enhance clarity – minimize jargon and acronyms.
7. Place relevant technical details in an attachment.
8. Break up long text blocks with paragraphs.
9. Write to inform, not to impress.
10. Reality test the communication with others before finalizing.
Granted, these steps do not represent anything new to most experienced writers; however, what they do represent is a reminder of how to approach a writing assignment in a thoughtful and organized manner.
In the end, Business Communicators should always work towards eliminating extraneous verbiage in their communications. It is not only indicative of effective writing, but also a way to give communications a better chance of actually be being read and acted upon.