By David Rose, Director LACS Training Brussels
Is the quote above from the latest best-selling book on effective professional writing skills?
Perhaps surprisingly, no.
It’s actually from a memo a British Prime Minister sent his cabinet of ministers about 70 years ago.
This quote serves to clearly illustrate one crucial point: conciseness or economy of words is – and has for a long time been – a central feature of professionally effective written English.
A longer, more ‘wordy’ construction is not more formal or professional.
It is, unfortunately, simply clumsy and often unclear: counterproductive to clearly communicating your intended messages and with little or no impact.
“Ah” you might say, “I work in an international environment where most of my audience is made up of capable but non-native speakers of English. Isn’t that quote only relevant to exclusively English native-speaking audiences?”
In a nutshell, no.
Bearing in mind the majority of your audience might well have English as a second (or perhaps third?) language… it is even more important your text communicates your intended messages as clearly as possible, while of course still respecting the required level of formality and diplomacy.
You have to avoid unnecessarily overcomplicated or overloaded phrases that need to be re-read to be fully understood.
Equally – and self-evidently – if your text is representing your organisation to an external audience, it’s also essential it projects a suitably positive, professional image.
On its own, however, this ‘what and why of conciseness’ doesn’t actually help you in practical terms to be more concise in your writing, does it?
You also need the ‘how’.
Recognising English favours a more concise style, how can you achieve an improved level of conciseness in your writing?
Well, here are six practical principles you can apply to help you produce consistently more concise – and consequently clear and influential – text: Continue reading