KISS Your Verbosity Goodbye

Time to deal with an often unpleasant reality. As business leaders, we spend a lot of each day writing – emails, reports, proposals, marketing materials, evaluations, even texts … 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 focused and clear messages. What follows, then, is a quick review of techniques to help you KISS Your Verbosity Goodbye – for making every word count and counting every word. And, of course, KISS means ‘Keep It Short & Simple!’

As workplace writers, we typically chose words out of habit – the first word or phrase we can think of or the one we usually use. And, all too often, we chose more words than we need. So, go beyond the first or the usual to the best word or phrase you can think of to accurately and consistently convey a specific meaning to a specific reader or group of readers. Embrace the impact of ‘Cut Anything Unnecessary!’ These simple strategies will energize your word use, reduce your verbosity and improve your results.

Use 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. Think ‘Twitter’ and save some of those characters.

*  Avoid “big word-ism” whenever possible. Don’t try to impress people with your educated vocabulary. Impress them with your clarity and focus instead. 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”, “telephone” vs. “phone” and “individuals” vs. “people”.

Use 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 the sake of 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. And verbs imply action while nouns are static things.

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 Together

When you combine these various WordPower guidelines, here’s 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!

So … KISS Your Verbosity Goodbye when you go beyond the first or usual word or phrase all the way to the best one. Cut Anything Unnecessary and Keep It Short & Simple! Make every word count and count every word, because the words you use do make a difference.

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