Get to the Point

March 17, 2016

As a veteran teacher of composition at the secondary level, my work involves training students to employ "economy of language." The same lesson could benefit professionals. The essential message: Streamline language. Get to the point. 


This has real value. Imagine if company correspondence  -- every email,  report, and newsletter -- were shortened by a third without losing any essential content. Consider the impact on efficiency were that standard applied across the board -- if your company were to adopt a "cultural preference for brevity." 


Can this backfire? Certainly. Too much time spent parsing language could be counterproductive. And sometimes too fine a filter can lead to miscommunication. But this is rare. Generally, succinct writing is clear writing. And clear writing yields a clear message. 


Here's an example:


It has become clear to those of us on the finance committee that taking a hard look at certain aspects of the discretionary expense accounts for mid-level executives at SuperCorp could potentially lead to significant cost savings for the company. (Roughly 40 words.)
The finance committee recommends re-evaluation of mid-level executive discretionary expense accounts to reduce costs. (Under 15 words.)


I filtered adverbs and adjectives, which usually aren't needed. Some revision involves taking advantage of "contextually obvious" knowledge: Assuming this is an internal company memo, there's no need to mention the name of the company, is there? We could go further. I can think of ways to get this message below ten words.


Not sure if this applies to you? Take a look at correspondence from a regular work week. Dig out an email or report. Filter unnecessary words. You can probably shorten it by a third. 


It's always good to "say what you mean and mean what you say." And sometimes, (too many) words get in the way. 


Want to help adopt a "culture of clarity" in your company? Check out to find out if I can assist you or your organization with a specific document or even a workshop.


This post was originally published on LinkedIn, here. 

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