Take a second to think how much you write in a day. You write a lot. You have plenty of practice writing. But you may not have practice improving your writing.
People who read what you write will have a more favorable opinion about you, even subconsciously, if you write well. Business writing that is clear, concise, purposeful and grammatically correct will when you votes and get you more sales.
In my last blog post, I wrote about removing as many instances of the word that as possible to quickly improve your writing. This week, I’m sending you a few other writing tricks to quickly improve your business writing skills, which strengthens your work and how others perceive you.
Get rid of these five words to quickly improve your writing for business
Besides correcting spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, the quickest way I improve other people’s writing is to eliminate the repetitive use of simple words that don’t need to be used at all. The most common words I look out for are:
- Really and definitely
- I think or I believe
- A lot
Too many people use the word just too many times. Press the delete button if you can when you see this word pop up, especially if it comes up more than once in your writing.
“Just a suggestion, it would be a good idea if we eliminate paper cups at the office.”
“I suggest it would be a good idea if we eliminate paper cups at the office.
An even better improvement is to remove the word just, AND write more directly to improve the impact of your suggestion:
“I suggest eliminating paper cups at the office.”
This last statement quickly gets to the point, helping increase the impact and eliminating the time someone has to read the sentence. It also prevents someone from thinking that the writer was hesitant to explain their suggestion. Doesn’t everyone want to get to the point quickly without trying to navigate someone’s feelings?
I also commonly see the word as added after the word just such as, “Just as a suggestion.” Delete the word as immediately because it doesn’t serve a purpose. It makes the writer sound more wishy-washy instead of direct and confident.
The adjective or adverb very commonly trips people up in writing because we often say it but shouldn’t write it. Some may say the word very doesn’t serve any purpose in business writing. A savvy business writer will find a more creative way to present their ideas than adding very.
“The process is very difficult for the team to start.”
“The process is difficult for the team to start.”
Again, the statement becomes more direct and impactful without the word very. A person can read the second sentence, get the point, and move on with their day.
An advanced writer may say, “The process is challenging for the team to start,” to improve the sentence. The word challenging is different than difficult, which may grab someone’s attention.
Even better would be to remove the word is, which is a passive/being verb, and replace it with an action verb such as, “The team finds the process challenging to start.”
The words really and definitely do not add anything to writing. One use of the word really or definitely usually does not impact the writing, but this word often creeps in repeatedly throughout emails. These are words we commonly use in conversation, so it is easy to plop them in an email and not notice the impact it is making on your professional reputation.
“I really feel we can wait to move the meeting to Friday.”
“I feel we can wait to move the meeting to Friday.”
Bam! By removing the word really (and you can substitute definitely in the above example, too), the sentence immediately improves. Again, you may not see the difference one sentence makes, but if you use these words often in your writing, your reputation will be less professional than you want to come across to others.
Similar words that do not serve a purpose are: actually, basically, certainly, probably and virtually.
I think/I believe
Another common conversational phrase people often transfer into their writing is I think, or I believe. When we feel comfortable communicating with people, we often use this to buffer the message or sound friendly. But, in business, a direct approach is received better than an indirect one, and using the words I think, or I believe makes a message less direct and impactful.
The words I think, and I believe also express an opinion, which makes us feel more comfortable, especially when we are not experts on a particular subject, or using facts. But the reader already knows it is an opinion from the writer based on the context, so using I think, or I believe is repetitive and needs to be deleted.
“I believe creating the presentation using PowerPoint would be best.”
“Creating the presentation using PowerPoint would be best.”
Again, I think can be substituted in the first example.
What a change! If a person wants to sound more professional and confident, deleting I think or I believe will immediately improve the message.
Once while I was taking a Statistics course in business school, the professor criticized me for using “a ton” when I was explaining a concept. Yes, saying “a ton” in a Statistics class all about precise numbers was not the smartest way to show my professor that I did not know what he was trying to teach me. The same holds true if I had written it on an exam in his class. I probably would have received a big fat zero because a ton would not accurately describe an answer to a business statistics problem (unless the answer was 2,000 pounds).
This real-life example illustrates that we often naturally use conversational terms and phrases when making presentations or writing for business. The story also shows that a lot is a vague term that does not really say how much something is. People want specifics. Additionally, a lot reduces the confidence and impact of a sentence.
“I’ve witnessed employees a lot of times violating the policy.”
I’ve witnessed employees violating the policy at least two times per day.”
If specific numbers are not available, be different, and try swapping a lot for the words several or many. It is not always necessary to change a lot but, universally, people use a lot too frequently. Giving it a second look will improve how people perceive you and your writing.
There are many ways to improve writing. As you improve your writing skills, your reputation goes up. Your writing will sound more confident, and people will perceive you as someone capable and able to lead.
The best way to improve your writing in business is to practice writing. Fortunately, most people have plenty of practice writing in their day job. So, to quickly improve your writing, look if you have used the words just, very, really/definitely, I think/I believe or a lot. Can you eliminate, substitute or reword these words to improve the sentence?
Changing these words is one way to improve your writing, but there are many other ways to make your work shine. One way is to hire a professional editor like myself. You do not need a full-blown instruction manual or book to need an editor. I often work with clients who simply have me check an email before they hit send. If you are interested in learning more about my services, please contact me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear about what you do and how I can help improve your work.