Keep It Brief

Do you ever wonder how that one-page letter suddenly turned into a three-page diatribe? Or why that “simple” report transformed into an unreadable treatise. There are many aspects to the wordiness problem – but there are also ways to solve it. Here are three areas to watch.

(i)“It and There” Disease. This writing clutter problem is usually found at the beginning of cover letters or documents. It involves the unnecessary use of an anticipatory construction at the start of a sentence. Since the real message of the sentence follows this anticipatory phrase, just drop the “it, there” clause.


It should be noted that the budget projection for my department next year will exceed $5 million.

It was found that Revlimid has a beneficial effect on patients suffering from deletion 5q MDS.

Others to avoid: It is important to consider . . It is imperative that . . . It has come to my attention that . . .

There are some circumstances that suggest patients will suffer adverse consequences to this drug product.

In some divisions of the company, there are special task forces that are assigned to resolve our marketing problems.

Other sentence starters to avoid (these add little meaning and can be removed at will):

– As per your memo/request

– In reference to the above captioned subject

– Attached/enclosed please find

– Please be advised

– As you are aware

(ii) “Whoery, Whichery and Thatery.” This clutter issue involves flabby sentences that have multiple clauses beginning with these words. Often, these clauses are either unnecessary or lengthy. Spotting and removing these clauses will result in more concise writing.

Whoery example: John Jones, who is our choice for the position, arrives Tuesday for the final assessment.

Improved: John Jones, our choice for the position, arrives Tuesday for the final assessment.

Whichery Example: The job, which John found highly agonizing, grew under the pressure of deadlines, and John finally quit.

Improved: The agonizing job grew unbearable under the pressure of deadlines, and John quit.

Thatery Example: Our goal is to develop a mission statement that is specific enough to be useful in providing clear direction.

Improved: Our goal is to develop a mission statement providing clear direction.

(iii) Unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. These are known as “intensifiers,” yet often the words chosen in business writing are dull and ineffective. Some examples of dull intensifiers are: rather, more, very, really, utterly, somewhat, mostly, totally, truly, extremely, slightly, basically, probably, quite and in fact. These words can be eliminated in most circumstances.

In fact, these words basically add very little to really distinguish your writing from other rather poor examples. If you need to use an intensifier for effect, make sure it is a powerful one, such as strongly.


Speak Your Mind