“I liked this report I keyed in” said the young manager “ But my boss didn’t. He said it was too long and verbose. What does that mean?”
A quick glance at the report told me why the boss was absolutely right. As we used to say in the old days, the manager had written not to express but to impress! The words were lengthy. There were too many words to the sentence. Many words used added little value. Many others were redundant.
In an age where time is at a premium and everyone is so busy, editing what you write is a key skill. It becomes doubly important in emails as they should be crisp and to the point. You are writing to provide information or give a solution or an idea. The objective is not to write a best seller which will feature for the next 5 weeks in the New York Times.
Many managers do not appreciate the difference between literary English and business English. The objective of business English is to enable the reader to act. The objective of literary English is to enable the reader to reflect. You may have a favorite novel which you have read many times and savour over the ages. Can you say the same of an email?
My focus in this post is on our habit of using redundant words. It has become almost fashionable to write “ at this point in time”. Why not simply say “ now”? Choose simpler words that are no less effective.
Why don’t you try improving on this? : “In actual fact, around 8.30 a.m. in the morning, we were doing some forward planning to work on the current status of the project. We got an unexpected surprise to find that the end result was not as we had anticipated based on past history. We had to revert back to the old method to avoid a crisis situation from coming up in the future.”
I am sure you would have spotted and removed many redundant words. Here is what I would write: Redundant words in parentheses. “In (actual) fact, around 8.30 a.m.(in the morning), we were (doing some forward) planning to work on the (current) status of the project. We got (an unexpected) a surprise to find that the (end) result was not as we had anticipated based on the past (history). We had to revert (back) to the old method to avoid a crisis (situation) from coming up (in the future.)”.
Edit what you write ruthlessly. Make what you write more readable.
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