Cut the crap

June 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

Yes, that’s right, you heard me – cut the crap. That’s what I’m tempted to say to people often when I have to persuade them that plain language is an imperative in business writing today.

It’s the biggest obstacle I face when I teach business writing – people who cling to their purple prose, complaining that plain language is dumbing things down, that their writing will lose its ‘elegance’.

The truth, however, is that most of the affectations people adopt in their writing are just that – affectations. They don’t add any value and they certainly don’t make the message clearer. Instead they often serve to confuse and cloud issues instead.

Big words and convoluted turns of phrase don’t make you sound clever. It’s not about showing off your education or your way with words. Business writing – or transactional writing, as it’s also called – is there to do a job. And your fancy phrasing is preventing it from doing that.

Trust me: plain language is always preferable to what you’ve just produced and patted yourself on the back for – that turgid email or report or presentation that’s groaning under the weight of all those meaningless buzzwords and complicated clauses. It’s elegant, it’s effective and it gets you noticed.

If you want business communication that does all that, look at that piece of writing again. Systematically weigh every word you’ve used and get rid of all the dross.

What am I trying to say? What’s the take-home message?

You’ve got it – cut the crap!


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