Business Writing Tip #177—Keep it simple

I just spent a week enjoying some sun and beach time, staying in a holiday unit. A notice in the apartment reminded of the need to keep it simple.

In the kitchen a notice was displayed asking us to leave the apartment neat and clean when we left. It included a small amount of information about the recycling bin and then told us that ‘More information can be found in your compendium.’lone gull

I laughed out loud. ‘Compendium’ is hardly a word one expects to see in a beachfront holiday apartment. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw the word. What’s wrong with ‘information pack’ or ‘apartment guide’?

When I got back to Canberra I picked up the notes of a business writing course written by a fabulous trainer, who is also a good friend of mine, Anne McDougall. She included a great example. This is a sign that she saw in London.

Soliciting of gratuities by refuse collectors is expressly forbidden.

That is, ‘Dustmen mustn’t ask for tips.’

Big words don’t make us seem more intelligent. They have their place, but it’s not in notices that are designed for the general public. Some of the audience will have no trouble understanding, but think about the people with literacy issues, people who speak English as a foreign language, young children . . . All that these long words do is make it harder for the audience to understand. (Multisyllabic expressions obfuscate the meaning of the utterance for the person who is perusing your written musings to determine a course of action.)

Keep it simple.

Happy writing.

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