The world seems full of tips about decluttering. There are books, websites and TV shows devoted to giving us advice on how to declutter our homes, our desks, our bookshelves, even our lives. They all suggest we will be much happier once we have got rid of the clutter.
Decluttering is something we can usefully apply to our business writing too, and it will make our readers much happier.
Many of the long words we use in business are no better than their shorter alternatives. Here’s a list of examples, taken from William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well, to help you declutter.
|Long word/phrase||Shorter equivalent|
|referred to as||called|
|With the possible exception of||Except|
|Due to the fact that||Because|
|He totally lacked the ability to||He couldn’t|
|Until such time as||Until|
|For the purpose of||For|
Other phrases to watch out for are:
- It should be pointed out …
- I might add …
- It is interesting to note …
Think about the meaning of your sentence with and without such phrases and words, and see if the meaning remains clear once you’ve deleted the clutter.
By cutting out the clutter, and paring your work back to the basics, you will be able to see your essential message clearly.
‘But what about style?’ I hear you ask.
Style is important, particularly in sales and marketing copy where you want to engage your readers in a specific way.
Once you’ve decluttered, once you’ve defined the essential message, then you can start to add words. But you will be adding them deliberately, thoughtfully, not just tossing them into the mix from your subconscious.
So when you’re writing:
- First give your subconscious free rein and get the words on the page, or the screen.
- Then strip it back. Be ruthless with it until your words convey the essential message.
- Then, thinking of your audience and your purpose, dress the text up with words that you have thought about, that you have considered carefully, that help achieve the purpose of the piece, and that will appeal to your readers.