The English language has a rich vocabulary and we can use it to express anything we want to express. Business English, though, needs to be clear, and easy to read. You don’t want your readers to be running off to check the dictionary all the time, or to struggle working out the meaning of complex sentence structures.
I have written previous tips about using Plain English, and I always recommend it for business writing.
There are, however, other ways that you can help your reader understand what you are saying.
Fix 1 – Use Images
You can use graphs and charts to describe trends. Pictures can highlight aspects of your text, or illustrate points.
- Images are particularly useful in technical documents. A diagram of a component will usually be much easier to understand than a written description.
- Or perhaps you are writing a report comparing different conference venues. To make it easy to compare different venues you can include floor plans which show information such as:
- room size,
- possible seating arrangements.
Fix 2 – Use Tables
Tables can organise information and make it easy for readers to find specific details. For example, a table is a practical way to present a budget, making debits and credits clear. You can use tables to present sales information, client details (names, addresses, contact numbers, special requirements, etc). Columns can be highlighted to indicate what information is most important, and your reader can then choose whether to delve deeper in the data. You can also use tables to model what-if scenarios and the like.
Fix 3 – Use Lists
You can see from the paragraphs above, the lists in Fix 1 are easier to read than the full block of text in Fix 2. Lists can show a hierarchy of information. They also add white space which helps a reader scan the text quickly and find the information that is most relevant to them.
Fix 4 – Use Examples
If you look at the three fixes above, you will see that I have given the general fix (for example, tables can organise information), and then I’ve made it clear what I mean by giving examples. People often find it easier to understand concrete examples, rather than abstract concepts.
If you’re wondering how best to make your information clear, always look beyond using words alone. Think of using images and your layout to help make things clear. Remember that in most cases your readers won’t know as much as you do about the topic and you want them to understand your messages easily.