Clear writing means clear thinking
“Clear writing means clear thinking”, “Clear thinking becomes clear writing.”
But it doesn´t work the other way round.
Even if we have the best ideas, if they are not conveyed correctly, they may not be taken into account o altogether misunderstood. For most people, writing is not an innate skill, it is acquired and learned. Clarity takes time, discipline, and learning. Simplify! Simplify! Simplify!
The golden secret to good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Get rid of all those words that serve no function words, redundancies, ambiguities, long sentences that could be short, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, and every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing the action. Just be clear!
I think, therefore I write
We should take some time to think: What am I trying to say? What is the information that the audience needs to receive by reading my e-mail? If I don´t know the answer the best option is to wait and think about it. If necessary, we can make a draft, a mind map or brainstorming. A good idea is to keep this question is constantly in mind while I am writing: Have I said what I was trying to say?
Right to the point
Business English writing is not academic writing, the style is very different from the one found in legal texts. Garner, the expert linguist, says that the most common mistake is to delay the main idea to half of the text. Let’s avoid preliminaries and long instructions. In business, it is better to express our message at the beginning in order to avoid loss of time and attention.
Brief, clear and concise.
Delete unnecessary words and sentences.
Avoid ambiguous and redundant phrases.
Make use of synonyms.
Avoid jargon and confusing examples.
Do not rumble.
Point of view = viewpoint.
Provided protection to = protected.
Is indicative of = Indicates.
Read, read, read
To be good writers, we have to be better readers. Read. Invest in a Style guide or consult one online. Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Stephen Pinker: The Sense of Style.
Re-read, revise and edit
Simply read and put on the recipient´s shoes. Will he understand the main idea? Am I clear and concise? Are language and vocabulary correct? Blackburn suggests reading aloud. If the mail is really important you can ask a colleague or a professional. Garner says: “Editing is an act of friendship”
I repeat relentlessly to my students and clients, be natural and spontaneous keeping our personal Style is the best we can do for communication. Not only when writing but also when speaking in any language.