Three More Tips on Writing Clarity from George Orwell

ClarityMany native speakers of English make the mistake of using too many unnecessary words. I do then whenever I don’t know what to say but want to convince people I know exactly what I am talking about. You see this on television whenever a politician is trying to skirt an issue. Using too many words is a great way to confuse your listener & reader.

It is also the easiest way to lose the respect of your audience. In business, you want to be as direct as possible. You want to make your point & you want to move on. People are busy. You are busy.

Let us show you how to do this:

Orwellian advice 1: replace wordy expressions with one or two words when possible.

Here are five examples:

– use “although” in place of “despite the fact that . . .”
– use “because” in place of “due to the fact that . . .”
– use “he” in place of “he is a man who . . .”
– use “recommend” in place of “make a recommendation.”

Many native English speakers also do not know the difference between the use of passive and active voices. That’s understandable. The active voice is when the subject does the object (John hit the ball.) The passive voice is when the subject is done by the object (The ball was hit by John).

Traditionally, passive voice requires more words and is less direct. Yet, there are times when passive voice is not only acceptable, but necessary for clarity.

Orwellian advice 2: use strong, precise verbs in the active voice where the subject acts on the verb. But don´t forget the passive voice – it has its place too.

Here is an example: The CEO believes that the company should launch a new marketing strategy.

In the passive voice, the action is emphasized rather than the actor: It is believed by the CEO that a new marketing strategy should be launched.

You can also use the passive to be diplomatic about not identifying the actor: The letter was badly written. The passive voice also creates an authoritative tone: Jim’s document should be read by tomorrow.

You have to fit your language to the audience you are addressing. Choosing the right voice (active or passive) ensures that your reader gets the meaning that you intend to give.

Orwellian advice 3: eliminate buzzwords (trendy words), avoid technical language, and skip the bureaucratic jargon.

It’s absolutely important that you refrain from writing technical words that only a select few people will understand. There is a reason we don’t spend hours writing about gerunds, modifying phrases, participles. They are confusing, and ultimately, not necessary. You need to understand big-picture structure, clarity strategies, and business writing tips.

Here are five examples:

– use “physical business” instead of “rick and mortar business”
– use “competence or ability” instead of “core competency”
– use “model” instead of “paradigm”
– use “skills” instead of “skill set”
– use “simplify” instead of “streamline”

Orwell helps us stay clear. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a message below.

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