Was that painful to read?
As an Office Ninja, you receive hundreds of emails every week, participate in conference calls, meetings, online classes—the list goes on. In our fast-paced, multitasking business world, getting to the point clearly and quickly matters more than ever. That secret professional power is called brevity.
Brevity Is That Important
Regardless of the reason for your communication, it only needs to be as long as necessary.
A handful of seconds is all it takes for you to lose someone when your message isn’t clear and concise. Think about how you feel when meetings run long or a phone rambler goes on and on after making their point. It keeps you and others from the work that actually needs to be accomplished.
We consume so much information that all that extra padding kills our productivity, frustrates us, and creates a lot of mental overtime.
Why Brevity Doesn’t Come Easy
Even though concise communication is in our best interest, many of us still struggle with brevity.
Maybe you don’t feel confident, so you over-explain to show well you actually know the subject. Or you think that the person who gets in the most words holds all the power. Both make sense, but imagine how much faster you could achieve that same status by delivering a strong, clear message in half the time.
On top of personal insecurities, people tend to compromise communications to avoid appearing aggressive and to save face for others. That completely derails our ability to deliver a tight, professional message.
Write Less, Say More
What’s the secret to delivering a tighter message?
Thorough editing. It sounds easy, but trimming the fat while retaining full impact and relevance is something few can do well. To help, we outline three quick editing tips below that can make you a master of brevity.
Befriend the Red Pen
You don’t have to be an English major to write succinctly—in fact, that might actually hurt your precision in the long run. Break out the red pen and slash words that aren’t necessary to your message, even if they sound nice on the page.
Look at the text we opened with. More than 60% of the words were cut, but the message is still the same—and it’s way easier to read.
When you’re writing anything from an email to a business report, don’t use three words when one will do just fine.
Avoid Wimpy Words
Weak adjectives and verbs sap the strength from your writing. By cutting these, you remove useless fillers and drastically improve your writing.
To catch these wimpy words, remember that they often end in ‘y’ and precede other weak adjectives.
- Really bad (use terrible)
- Really good (use great)
- Incredibly sad (use miserable)
Opt for verbs that express action, instead of passive phrasing that isolates the reader from the writer. Reviewing a few before and after examples helps clarify when you aren’t sure of technical terms like passive voice.
- She is writing—She writes
- He was considering moving to Canada—He considered moving to Canada
- He is aware that his report is late—He knows his report is late
Kill the Broken Record
Stop repeating yourself! No one likes repetition, and it delays the reader from reaching the meat of your message. Sometimes these are tricky to spot, so look out for redundancy when you edit.
- Added bonus Bonus is already an addition, ‘added’ is redundant
- End result A result happens at the end, remove the modifier ‘end’
- Her sweater was pink in color Her sweater was pink
- He checks his email on a daily basis at 9 AM in the morning He checks his email daily at 9 AM
Brevity Can Boost Your Career
Being clear and concise was once considered a plus; now, it’s a necessity.
The reality is that brevity can advance your career. From PowerPoint presentations that lack power to executive summaries that don’t summarize, people who aren’t efficient with their communications get left behind.
If you can deliver ideas fast and clearly, think about how you’ll look next to verbose colleagues. When you entice people with less, they always want more.
How do you save time by being brief? Do you have any editing tricks to tighten up your correspondence?