Let’s deal with an often unpleasant reality. As business leaders, we spend a lot of each day writing – emails, reports, proposals, marketing materials, evaluations … well, you get the picture. We should all add the title ‘Workplace Writer’ to our business cards.
And we often write more than we need. Those extra – and unnecessary – words waste our time to write them and our readers’ time to read them. They even can get in the way of our messages. What follows, then, is a quick review of ‘Keep It Short & Simple’ techniques to help you KISS your verbosity goodbye – for making every word count and counting every word.
As workplace writers, we typically chose words out of habit – the first word we can think of or the word we usually think of. And, all too often, we chose more words than we need. So, go beyond the first word or usual word to the best word you can think of to accurately and consistently convey a specific meaning to a specific reader or group of readers. These simple strategies will energize your word use, reduce your verbosity and Keep it Short & Simple.
KISS by Using Short & Familiar Words
Whenever a short, simple, familiar word is just as clear or clearer as a longer word, use the shorter word. The extra syllables don’t add anything to your meaning and may detract from your image as a real, down-to-earth person. But don’t trade clarity for brevity.
- Avoid “big wordism” whenever possible. Don’t try to impress people with your educated vocabulary. Why use a 50-cent word in a 10-cent conversation?
- Why use “anticipate”, when “expect” is just as clear, shorter and more conversational. The same goes for “utilize” vs. “use”, “compensate” vs. “pay” and “telephone” vs. “phone”.
KISS by Using Short & Uncluttered Phrases
Now that you’ve improved your individual word choices, carry that momentum on to phrases. Cut out any unnecessary words or whole phrases that don’t enhance your message or tone. But never sacrifice clarity or tone for brevity.
- Use short verbs instead of longer noun phrases that add unnecessary words and a more formal, stuffy tone. They don’t enhance message or your image. Turn “…reach a decision” into “decide” and “…in the process of the investigation of…” into “investigating”.
- Turn “… in the amount of $2,300” into “… for $2,300”. Same for turning “At the present time …” into “Now …” and “Despite the fact that” into “Although …”.
Putting It Altogether
When you combine these various KISS guidelines, this is what can happen. Start with
“We have been in the process of the investigation of various alternative proposals to solve our computer system problems for several months now.” (23 words)
By choosing simple and specific words and cutting unnecessary phrases, you wind up with:
“We’ve been investigating four proposals to solve our system problems for three months.” (13 words)
The message is just as clear – or clearer – and you reduced your verbosity by 43% – not too shabby!
You can KISS your verbosity goodbye when you make every word count and count every word, because the words you use do make a difference.