Mark Twain sagely noted that "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug."
Choosing the right words is essential for crafting professional business communications. Would you be satisfied with almost closing a sale or almost getting a promotion? Do your marketing materials urge customers to almost contact you? Then why settle for the almost right words?
Your writing will be most effective if you select words that express your ideas exactly. Strive for precision. Edit to ensure that every word does necessary work and that you have chosen words for their sound and feel as much as their meaning.
Improve your next newsletter, corporate report or promotional brochure by choosing words that are bright, brief and bold.
Choose words with clear meaning. Don't say stentorian when you can say loud. Don't say perspicacious when you can say keen. Use words to communicate with your readers, not to impress or confound them.
Resist the allure of corporate jargon, which is trendy and often confusing. A colleague once thanked me for "flexing during our interface and taking it offline." To this day I'm not sure what that means, but it made me feel like a computer!
Edit your writing for corporate-speak like competencies, achievables and value-add. Your reader will understand skills, goals and benefits just fine, and your writing will be stronger and more professional.
Unless your circumstance requires a formal, academic writing style, choose the shortest word that can do the work. Don't acquire when you can buy. Don't investigate what you can check. Whenever possible, use your staff instead of utilizing your personnel. Brevity keeps your writing fresh and appealing to your reader.
How can you make your writing brief but not under-written? Pay attention to the goal and context of your writing. Consider your readers, your position relative to them, and what you want to accomplish with your writing. Are you offering sales training tips or a medical opinion? Are you writing a press release or summarizing a clinical trial? Be brief within the context of your communication.
Promotional writing, in particular, must be both brief and specific in order to motivate consumer action. For example,
Brief but not specific. Tell me what makes them superior.
Brief and specific. Now I'm interested in your workshops.
Writing boldly means never having to say you're "very". Instantly become a better writer by treating "very" as a virus that weakens and sucks the life out of your words.
Very interesting, very important, very well-supported. Edit ruthlessly and replace every "very" with a word that can stand on its own. Riveting, seminal, airtight... these are words that your reader will feel and remember.
Precision is habit-forming. As you choose your words more carefully you will become more attuned to the nuances of language, and your writing will be clear and powerful. Choose wisely and you will achieve more with less: less words, less time and less demand on your reader.
Subscribe to receive my monthly Onwords™ column, and join me next month for tips on writing for the web.
Copyright © 2006 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.