Writing it right

Categories: Winnthinks

I’ve spent a lot of time recently helping a client work on their written material. In particular that has been about the quality and tone of the letters and emails the company sends its customers. As an investment company, they often have to quote tedious and pompous sounding small print to people, which can make them sound officious and uncaring. Actually, they work very hard to be the absolute opposite, which is why a change of writing style has been so good for them, and their customers have been noticing.

So with my writer’s hat on I thought I would cast some mischief this week, and invite you to share with me your pet hates when it comes to business writing. Here are some of mine for starters…

  • Really long sentences that have a great deal of information in them but don’t help you out by giving you any punctuation so as a result you feel out of breath by the end of the sentence even though you are not reading it out loud which is a strange phenomenon but happens nevertheless.
  • Beginning a sentence with unnecessary padding such as ‘obviously’, ‘I can confirm that’ and ‘kindly note that’. Experiment with taking those out at the editing stage – most of the time you’ll be amazed at how much more assertive and impressive your writing becomes.
  • What, you don’t edit?
  • Inappropriate capitalisations, such as ‘Yours Sincerely’.
  • Signing off with ‘please do not hesitate to contact me’. What you mean is ‘please get in touch’, so why have a sentence that contains two negatives in it when you could phrase it so much more positively?
  • Common word muddles, (which tend to happen more in emails than letters), such as ‘defiantly’ instead of ‘definitely’, ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ the wrong way round, ‘accept’ and ‘except’, ‘principle’ and ‘principal’ (a mistake I commonly see in job advertisements, by the way), ‘lose’ and ‘loose’, ‘allot’ when the writer means ‘a lot’… someone I know has a real ‘thing’ about the phrase ‘please bare with me’ – what, are we going to take off all our clothes?
  • Using ‘myself’ when ‘me’ would do. ‘Please write to myself in order to…’ NO NO NO!
  • ‘What you could of done is…’ when the writer means ‘what you could have done is…’. Hmmm…

I bet you could think of loads more. Go on, you know you want to, it’s really very therapeutic. Drop me a line and tell me about your Written Word Gripes and I’ll include them for you in a follow up Winnthink some time.

Finally, remember what they say: Always proofread carefully to see if you any words out.