A lot of business writing is done by robots.
Don’t believe me? What else could explain a sentence like this:
“In the last fiscal year, we’ve utilized outside-the-box thinking to facilitate best practices, maximize efficiencies, and leverage mission-critical bandwidth.”
Language like this only obscures meaning. Yet business buzzwords, once reserved for consultants and recent MBA grads, are constantly creeping into our everyday business communications.
Why? Some people do it to sound impressive. Others do it because, well, that’s how everybody else writes. But that doesn’t make it right, especially if you want your ideas to be understood and remembered.
So how do you avoid sounding like a robot?
Be more human.
- Use a “you” voice. Make your writing more personal by speaking directly to the reader. Pretend you’re having an intimate conversation with one person rather than addressing hundreds or thousands of people at once. For example, notice above I said, “So how do you avoid sounding like a robot?” I didn’t say, “How do people avoid sounding like a robot?” That little “you” can make a world of difference in your communications.
- Write like you speak. Speaking of conversations—write conversationally. For example, you breathe when you talk, right? Your copy needs to breathe, too. Try reading it out loud. If it sounds unnatural, rambley, or you have to stop to take a breath, you have some more editing to do.
- Avoid jargon. Using business lingo doesn’t make you sound smarter. It just makes it harder for people to understand you.
That doesn’t mean talk down to your reader. But consider your audience as you write. If your industry uses special terminology, use it. Just make sure your readers know the lingo. If they don’t, define it for them. Several times.
Just remember: You don’t “utilize” a toothbrush to “strategically eliminate” plaque.
You don’t “facilitate” dinner for your family.
You don’t claim mowing the lawn as a “core competency.”
So why would you “gather stakeholders for a 10,000-foot view” … when you could simply call a meeting?
Want to really work “outside of the box”? Want your business writing to “experience an extreme paradigm shift”? (Just kidding.) Be more human. You’ll be a better writer.