Hi, my name is Frank Bonkowski, founder of Business School HQ.com, the go-to-place to learn to write better.
In today’s lesson on writing with clarity I’d like to begin by mentioning two of my favourite writers: Dale Carnegie and George Orwell.
Dale Carnegie is author of the amazing book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He once said:
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.”
In today’s knowledge economy, Carnegie’s ideas relate to business writing as well. What you write and how you write it are critically important for your business success.
So what is the secret to communicating clearly and concisely in business writing? Clarity.
George Orwell is the genius behind Animal Farm and 1984, two of the most influential and well written books of the 20th century.
Orwell knew a few things about writing effectively. Here are two of his simple rules for good writing:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech, which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
These two rules sound simple, but they aren’t. Even native English speakers have trouble with them, but don’t get discouraged if English is not your 1st language.
According to Kenneth Davis, author of Business Writing and Communication [see Am azon affiliate link], “writing is a process that can be managed like any other business process.”
Let’s dig deeper into Orwell’s classic advice.
# 1: Many native English speakers do not know what is a “figure of speech.” These are expressions used in a non-literal way to create a special effect.
Let’s define the simile. A simile compares two things using “like” or “as.” Example: “As hot as hell.”
A metaphor, on the other hand, makes a comparison, but doesn’t use “like” or “as.” “Life is a roller coaster.”
But be careful: using common similes and metaphors too often makes for dull or boring writing. And don’t mix metaphors. As William Strunk says in The Elements of Style [see Amazon affiliate link]: “Don’t start by calling something a swordfish and end by calling it an hourglass.”
Now let’s look at Orwell’s second simple rule.
Keep it simple by using plain English. Never speak over the head of your readers by showing off “ten-dollar” words.
advise say / tell
cognizant of know
impact on affect
per diem per day
subsequent to after
That’s today’s lesson on tips for clear writing.
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