Monday, December 1, 2008

Common writing mistakes to avoid


We all have our own writing styles, either learnt from school or developed over the years. But when it comes to business writing, our approach often changes. We forget the basic in favor of what we believe is a more professional style of writing. Long winded sentences and pompous sounding phrases do not make for a more professional style. In fact, quite often, the opposite holds true. Here are some of the things that need to be avoided when it comes to correct business writing:

Mean what you say and say what you mean- Do not use phrases or words whose meaning you do not completely understand. It may sound okay to you in your sentence, but it could be completely wrong in the context in which it was written.

Use everyday words- The average person would prefer to read at a simpler level. Long winded sentences and words that require the reader to have a dictionary besides them, can be quite annoying and not in the least bit useful. As Albert Einstein advised: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” A long word is the right word, but only if it’s the best word.

Avoid euphemisms- A euphemism is when a person is trying to skirt around the issue by not naming the subject. An example is ‘House of ill repute’ for a Brothel. A euphemism is “the substitution of a more mild, indirect, or vague expression”. In politics and public relations, a euphemism is often referred to as ‘doublespeak’. We use euphemisms everyday and because of that, it often gets incorporated into our writing. They can be positive- You may use it to add a note of humor to a speech or by way of important sounding job titles- e.g. Health care professional for a nurse. Or negative- you may use it to disguise an unpleasant task in an email, such as firing an employee. However, either way, euphemisms can get in the way of effective communication. So use them with caution.

Some common business euphemisms are:

• Administrative Assistant - an important sounding name for secretary
• take under advisement - consider
• consultant - an advisor
• downward adjustment - corporate double talk for a reduction
• erroneous report – corporate double talk for a lie
• prevaricate - to lie
• reverse engineering - corporate double talk for copy
• slack fill - corporate double talk for partially empty

Avoid tautologies- Tautologies are usually two or three words in a sentence that say the same thing twice. An example could be new innovation or advance planning.

Some other common business tautologies to avoid are:

• Very unique
• To reiterate again
• First priority
• Close proximity
• In my opinion, I think that...
• The reason is because
• Joint cooperation
• One after the other in succession
• Necessary requirement

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