The answer to Mr. Adewolu’s question: Never. The point of business writing is substance—so if style gets in the way of substance, you’re distracting the reader. Here is an example:
It is a propitious moment in our organizational history for our reasonable committee members to contemplate a decision whether or not we should renew our contract with our current software vendor.
This 31-word sentence is laden with stylistic pitfalls. Consider what the writer really wants: a decision by the committee. With that purpose in mind, he should get to the point. Here are at least six of his stylistic problems:
1. The writer does not actually say the word decision until Word 18.
2. The nature of the decision, renew our contract, does not appear until Words 24-26.
3. The word propitious is overdone, especially when it places more focus on the moment in history than the desired action.
4. The phrase in our organizational history is a complete waste—even if timing were of the essence. This decision is not a historical lesson; it is a routine business practice.
5. The adjective reasonable clearly kowtows to the committee members—it’s almost laughable.
6. The phrase whether or not is most often a redundancy. Even current is a wasted word because the committee would not be renewing a contract with any other vender.
The writer draws more attention to himself than to his point through an overwrought vocabulary, an obsequious attitude, redundant expressions, and, most important, a delayed request. He could have achieved his point in half the words:
Our committee must decide now about whether to renew the contract with our software vendor.
This 15-word sentence gets to the point with blazing clarity. A multi-million, multi-year contract is at stake, so make your case plainly. The substance should dictate the style, not the other way around.
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