Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Virtues of Reading Your Writing Aloud, Part 3: Conciseness

If you’ve been e-mailing at work for a while, then you’ve surely seen writing like this:

I am writing to tell you that I spoke to Paula during the Quality Assurance meeting that we held today, and she told me to tell you that starting at this point and going forward we will be going with Plan B.

Only 12 of those 42 words have any value for the reader. Think about it:

  • The first three words, I am writing, are unnecessary for a person reading in this context.
  • The next four words, to tell you that, are just as useless.
  • The next four words, I spoke to Paula, are equally unneeded once the writer says what Paula said.
  • The clause she told me to tell you is repetitive.
  • The seven words starting at this point and going forward are a bit much for starting now.

If the writer had read aloud that sentence, he would have picked up at least some of these issues and gotten to the important point. The 12-word version below says it all:

During today’s Quality Assurance meeting, Paula said to start using Plan B.

Read your sentences aloud to hear the repeated and unnecessary words!

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