An eNewsletter Dedicated to Helping Businesspeople Write Smarter and Faster in Plain English
Writing Is a Reflection of Your Company’s Character
The following excerpt from “Why Writing in Plain Language Will Benefit Your Business,” by Laurie Smith on the CNW Blog, drives home several important points about the power of plain writing in the business world. The article is an interview with Dr. Michael Sider, assistant professor of Management Communications at Ivey Business School, on the topic of business writing. Here’s what he has to say.
How you write speaks volumes about the character of your company. Good writing creates clarity and clarity leads to marketplace power. People can’t make good decisions—investment decisions, consumer decisions, career decisions—if they can’t understand you.
Good writing also reinforces your brand. For example, Bombardier has implemented a corporate writing style that uses sentence structure and word choice to create a sense of energy, of flight, of movement—all constructs that make sense with the transportation manufacturer’s brand essence. An example taken from their annual report, reads:
“The world is constantly on the move and so is Bombardier. Driving progress by staying one step ahead to shape how people get where they need to go, intelligently, safely, and comfortably.”
They employ the power of silence with short, purposeful statements that create a pause. Their use of repetition, rhythm and rhetorical balance delivers the impression while reading that the world is on the move—and so is Bombardier. What Bombardier does particularly well is to find a balance between when to use these constructs and when not to use them. They don’t overdo it.
Some People Falsely Equate Complex Writing with Complex Thinking
When asked why many businesspeople find it difficult to write clearly using plain language, Sider said:
I think some people wrongly equate formal and complex language with intelligence. I’m with Jack Welch, who said the opposite is actually the case (at least in business). Strong, clear-thinking people speak simply. If you think of the sayings that stick with us, many are really simple: “Knowledge is power,” “don’t cry over spilled milk,” “survival is not sufficient.” The “Ten Commandments” are plain and simple for good reason: they’re meant to be remembered. The best way to signal to your customers that you don’t want to be understood or remembered is to write complexly.
- The Chinese words for crisis and opportunity are the same.
- The tongue is the only muscle in the human body that is connected at just one end.
- The caribou is a nomadic land animal that travels as much as 3,000 miles a year, which is farther than any other land animal.
- Four people played Darth Vader: David Prowse was his body, James Earl Jones did the voice, Sebastian Shaw was his face and a fourth person did the breathing.
- Which TV personality served as a sniper for the Israeli underground when only a teenager: Tony Curtis, Joan Rivers, Leonard Nimoy, Dr. Ruth? (Answer: bottom of page)
Word of the Month
splenetic | splih-NET-ik |
1: marked by bad temper, malevolence, or spite
“Keith’s response to being cheated out of his annual bonus was a splenetic outpouring of abuse.”
Wacky & Wise Websites
Click here to visit This American Life by WBEZ Chicago—one of the longest-running podcasts—and get informed about current and past topics of national and global interest.
Click here to visit the Smithsonian website and get lost in a world of wonder.
American Express, Amgen, Cisco Systems, Department of the Navy, Fluor Corporation, General Electric, Motorola, The New York Public Library, Procter & Gamble, Prometric, State of Utah, Supreme Court of Virginia, United Way, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Writing Tips & More
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Choose the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
Despite their —— proportions, the murals of Diego Rivera give his Mexican compatriots the sense that their history is —— and human in scale, not remote and larger than life.
- monumental … accessible
- focused … prolonged
- vast … ancient
- realistic … extraneous
- narrow … overwhelming
(Answer: bottom of page)
Neck of the woods. Neck has been used to refer to a narrow stretch of land or geographic feature because the narrow strip resembles the neck of an animal. The use dates to at least 1637 when it appears in the records of the town of Dedham, Massachusetts. The phrase neck of woods appears as early as 1780 in Arthur Young’s A Tour of Ireland: “You see three other necks of wood,… generally giving a deep shade.” By the mid-19th century, the phrase neck of the woods was being used to apply to a small and isolated community, and eventually more generally to any neighborhood or region.
Answer: monumental … accessible
Fun Facts Answer
Dr. Ruth, born Ruth Westheimer in 1928 in Germany, was orphaned during the Holocaust and moved to the British Mandate of Palestine after World War II where she was trained as a sniper by the Haganah paramilitary defense force.