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A case for clarity in business writing

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in Centerpiece,Office Communication,Workplace Communication

With email being such a huge part of business communication, it’s essential to know how to write well.

“Clarity is the most important characteristic of good business writing,” says Mignon Fogarty, creator of the “Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” podcast. “Often businesspeople will use big $10 words because they want to sound intelligent. Instead, they end up sounding like they’re trying too hard.”

Forbes staff writer Susan Adams gathered advice from Fogarty and other writing experts to help you improve the clarity of your writing:

  • Shorter is better. Use short sentences, and choose shorter words whenever possible.
  • Keep it simple. Avoid using foreign phrases, scientific lingo or business jargon when plain and simple English would work.
  • Remain professional. Try not to overuse exclamation points and keep your sign-offs office appropriate.
  • Use active voice. “Steve organized today’s team lunch” is active. “Today’s lunch was organized by Steve” is passive and should be avoided.
  • Don’t misuse “myself.” “I often read versions of ‘Send the memo to Bob and myself, ’” Fogarty says. “For some reason people think that ‘my­­self’ sounds more important or formal,” but it’s incorrect.
  • Stop using “that” and “which” interchangeably. “That” precedes information that is essential to the meaning of the sentence. “Which” precedes nonessential information.
  • Quit confusing “affect” and “effect.” “Affect” is a verb and it means “to influence,” while “effect” is a noun that means “result.”

— Adapted from “10 Tips for Better Business Writing,” Susan Adams, Forbes.

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