Choosing your words wisely

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Submitted: March 19th, 2013
By: Jenna Marino

After the 300th email of the day it is often easy to write in haste and forget the niceties. Tsk tsk – your words are all you have if you sit behind the computer screen all day and why not use them to the best of their ability? Understanding the importance of word choice, not only in emails but in all of your business writing could be deciding factor as to whether or not your message is received (even if only the grammar nuts notice). No, I’m not suggesting that I know all about writing, grammar, communications or anything for that matter, but I do know what I like and what I don’t and as an avid email reader (by choice or not) here are my tips and tricks to getting your business message across.
1. No more overused, forever repeated clichés. “Thinking outside the box” only makes me think of Taco Bell. When you have to start a sentence with “With all due respect” you probably just shouldn’t say it at all. And “Pushing the envelope” – I have no idea where or how this cliché started but with my limited use of paper envelopes, I don’t get it. Using clichés tells your reader that you didn’t have the time or didn’t put in the effort to think of a creative way of stating your point. Your message will most likely be better understood if you avoid the clichés that mean nothing and start using meaningful, direct language.

2. If your company wants to portray a fresh, modern image – please consider the following as outdated expressions:
• I wish to acknowledge receipt of
• thanking you in advance
• in accordance with your request
• enclosed herewith please find

These may be stretching it, but if you’re using them I hope it is either to make your day a little brighter knowing that someone will raise an eyebrow at your response, or because you were born in 1852.

3. Slang – I would suggest eliminating most of it from your business vocabulary. Although it can be hilarious, unless you’re looking for shock value I doubt it will get you where you want to be. Slang can cause communication breakdowns and when you’re short on time and trying to achieve results, these breakdowns are not welcome.

4. Avoid abbreviations and emoticons. BTW any1 lol jtlyk I’m not jk. If you understood that, I’m impressed but please leave it to msn, and if you use msn – psst. 2004 called and they want their instant messaging platform back. Limiting abbreviations in your business writing will eliminate the confusion that can be caused by “brb” wth.

5. Keep your language specific and functional. Avoid unnecessary wordiness. If you’re writing includes a lot of filler and vague generalizations, I’ll assume that you are just as confused as I and disregard your message altogether. Use concrete language instead of abstract nouns – you will understand you better, and so will I.

6. Know your audience. (Enough said.)
Now, I’m not suggesting that you remove your personal style from your business writing. Sometimes that smiley face emoticon at the end of an email serves a very real purpose and can soften a blow, but I suggest you use these tactics within reason. Remember the person on the other end of the message, put yourself in their chair and make sure that you are as clear as possible, ensuring your message will be well-received and understood in its entirety.
For a more comprehensive version of this blog please read Communicating for Results by Carolyn Meyer.