9 March 2016

Are you ever guilty of using six words when one would suffice? Or of using overly complex language to sound more educated?

These are sure-fire ways to switch a reader off! Especially in business when time is incredibly precious and most people have a to-do list longer than their desks.

Winston Churchill hit the nail on the head with his below memo. The once secret War Cabinet document outlined the need to reduce ‘woolly’ writing because it creates a “mass of papers… nearly all of them far too long”.

I could not agree more! The amount of paperwork that I, my wife Gail and EA Ginny have to sift through is astonishing.

Imagine if, in business today, all board reports, financial documents, internal reports and the like were written to these guidelines! I am a huge fan of diagrams, graphs and imagery in place of paragraphs of text.

Churchill sums up the memo saying: “Reports drawn up on the lines I propose may at first seem rough as compared with the flat surface of officialise jargon. But the saving in time will be great, while the discipline of setting out the real points concisely will prove an aid to clearer thinking.”

It’s a greater challenge for report writers to set out exactly the points that they are making, rather than leaving the reader to sift through to work out what it is meant to say.

I laughed out loud reading the phrases: “It is also of importance to bear in mind the following considerations…” and “Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect…”

What are the worst ‘wooly’ phrases you’ve read in a business document? I’d love to read them!

wooly writing

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