Resources – Shirley’s Articles For Reprint
Seven Deadly Sins Of Business Writing
Business today is being conducted in a very informal way – in meetings and conferences we are using a natural, informal, more relaxed language, rather than stilted, formal language that was used several decades ago. So how come many people are still using business writing that is more suited to our great-grandfathers rather than 21st Century businessmen and women?
Here are my impressions of business writing today in the form of seven deadly sins.
1. So many young people with so many old-fashioned expressions
When will people realise that business language has changed? Expressions like “Please be informed,” “Kindly be advised,” “I would like to bring to your attention” and “I am writing to advise you” should have been relegated to the recycle bin way before the turn of this new millennium! Unfortuntately today’s writing is still full of centuries-old expressions like these, not to mention even worse ones like “Enclosed herewith please find our catalogue for your reference and perusal”, “With reference to your above-mentioned order,” “Further to the telecon today between your goodself and the undersigned,” This type of writing is BORING! People are using these standard, boring clichés that have been used for years simply because everyone else uses them, and has used them for centuries! Please! Put some thought and personality and some feeling into your writing!
|We refer to your letter of 21st October 2013.||Thank you for your letter of 21 October.|
|As spoken in our telecon today.||Thank you for calling me this morning.|
|Please revert to me soonest possible.||I hope to hear from you soon.|
|Should you require any further clarification please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.||Please give me a call on 2874722 if you have any questions.|
2. Do some KISSing
Long words and long expressions, long sentences and long paragraphs will impress no-one – they will only confuse! Remember the KISS principle – Keep it Short and Simple! Instead of “I should be very grateful” why not simply say “Please” (definitely not Kindly!) Use short words like buy, try, start and end instead of purchase, endeavour, commence and terminate. Remember to KISS in your business writing – use short words, simple expressions, short sentences and short paragraphs that are clear and concise!
|in spite of the fact that||despite|
|in view of the fact that||as|
|in the event that||if|
3. Let’s get more active
Our great-grandfathers used passive voice in writing because they didn’t want to show who was responsible for anything. They preferred to use long sentences that beat about the bush but never revealed what was really happening and who was really responsible. Today’s business writers should use active voice, which is more alive, more focussed, more personalised and much more interesting and clear.
|Arrangements have been made for a repeat order to be despatched to you immediately.||I have arranged for a repeat order to be sent to you today.|
|The cause of your complaint has been investigated …||I have looked into this matter …|
|The seminar will be conducted by Shirley Taylor.||Shirley Taylor will conduct the seminar.|
|Sales of the X101 have exceeded all expectations.||X101 sales have gone sky high.|
4. Colons Colons Colons
Why is it that many people have to put a line of colons in any list? It looks so cluttered and messy. Let’s get rid of all the clutter in our business writing, and make it look neat, clean and well-organised.
Date: 29 November 2001 (Thursday)
Time: 9.00am to 5.00 pm
Venue: Sheraton Towers Hotel
|Date||Thursday 29 November 2001|
|Time||9.00 am to 5.00 pm|
|Venue||Sheraton Towers Hotel|
Our great-grandfathers invented the attention line (and they were not lazy – they wrote it in full, “For the attention of …”) because they were merely directing the letter to the desk of a real person, not writing personally to that person. In those days, even with the attention line, letters still began “Dear Sirs” and the wording was formal and very passive, as if talking to the company as a whole, not to a real individual person. Over the years the attention line has been very much misused and lazy writers have abbreviated it to “Attention” or even “Attn”. Attention lines are today being incorporated (wrongly) in personal letters with personal salutations like “Dear John, Dear Mr Tan”. Let’s put the attention line in the recycle bin and relegate it firmly to the last century where it belongs. We rarely need it today. If you know the person to whom you are writing, and if you want to use a personal salutation, incorporate the addressee’s name and title into the address section.
Attn : Leslie Lim
STP Distributors Pte Ltd (Books)
30 Old Toh Tuck Road #05-02
Mr Leslie Lim
Product and Sales Manager
STP Distributors Pte Ltd (Books)
30 Old Toh Tuck Road #05-02
6. Do you really need a line to sign your name on?
I thought it was only children who needed a line on which to write? Would managers really go into a fit if there was no line on which to sign their names? Would they really sit there and wonder where to put their signature? I really doubt it. Surely the space between “Yours sincerely” and the writer’s name/title is indication enough that this is where the signature goes? Again, this is something that we simply don’t need. Get rid of the line and let’s get rid of even more clutter in our writing.
Low Chwee Leong
7. Thank you!
Why do so many people need to say “Thank you” at the end of a message? Thank you for what? For reading my letter? Please! Stop wasting time and printer ink. If you have been courteous throughout your communication (and let’s face it, no matter what the circumstances, your writing should always be courteous) there should be no need to keep saying “Thank you” over and over again just because someone read your letter!
In today’s fast-paced business world, there should be no room for yesterday’s old-fashioned, long-winded jargon. Ditch the boring standard clichés that have been around for decades. Put some life into your business writing by using a natural, relaxed, friendly style. Put some zip into your presentation by getting rid of the clutter. Put some feeling, imagination and creativity into your writing by using a style that is more proactive, stimulating and interesting – writing that reflects your own personality. This is 2002, not 1902!
Thank you. kidding ☺
All articles are copyright © Shirley Taylor. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described here.
Permission to reprint all or part of any article in your magazine, e-zine, website, blog or organisation newsletter is granted, as long as:
- The entire credit line below is included*.
- The website link to shirleytaylor.com is clickable (live)**.
- You send a copy, PDF, or link of the work in which the article is used when published.
This credit line must be reprinted in its entirety to use any articles by Shirley Taylor:
* Credit line:
© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is a high-energy, high-content speaker who is passionate about motivating individuals to make a real difference in our automated world. With inspiring stories and a fun style, she engages audiences quickly, and encourages them to embrace high-touch as well as high-tech so they can connect with heart.
Shirley has been a trusted member of the professional speaking and training community for many years, and has received several awards for her services in leadership. She served as Asia Professional Speakers Singapore President 2011-12 and as Global Speakers Federation President 2017-18. She has spoken in almost 20 countries all over the world.
Author of 12 books published by international publishers, Shirley has established herself as a leading authority in workplace communication, business writing, and email. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition has sold over half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages.
If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit shirleytaylor.com.
** The website link to shirleytaylor.com must be clickable to receive permission to reprint the article.