Dale Carnegie, author of one of my favorite books, How to Win Friends and Influence People, said:
In today’s knowledge economy, Carnegie’s ideas relate to business writing as well. What you write and how you write it are critically important for your business success.
So what is the secret to communicating clearly and concisely in business writing? Clarity.
George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984, knew a few things about writing effectively. Here are two of his simple rules for good writing:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
This is a tall order even for native English speakers, but don’t get discouraged. According to Kenneth Davis, author of Business Writing and Communication [see Amazon affiliate link], “writing is a process that can be managed like any other business process.”
Let’s dig deeper into Orwell’s classic advice.
# 1: Many native English speakers do not know what is a “figure of speech” - expressions used in a non-literal way to create a special effect.
A simile compares two things using “like” or “as.” Example: “As hot as hell.” A metaphor makes a comparison, but doesn’t use “like” or “as.” “Life is a roller coaster.”
Beware: using common similes and metaphors too often makes for dull writing. And don’t mix metaphors. As William Strunk says in The Elements of Style [see Amazon affiliate link]: “don’t start by calling something a swordfish and end by calling it an hourglass.”
# 2: Keep it simple by using plain English. Never speak over the head of your readers by showing off “ten-dollar” words.
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