“Write the way you talk” is good advice for being conversational, but not necessarily for being concise.

That’s because the way you talk is anything but concise. Conversational writing has a simplified, relaxed quality, and you might read your message aloud and think that’s how it would sound if you spoke it. Perhaps, but that does not mean it’s good professional business writing. Oral conversation is spontaneous; you think about your ideas and arrange them in order as you talk. Consequently, you speak in sentence fragments, stop in the middle of sentences and start over, and occasionally ramble off in unrelated directions and have to steer yourself back on track. As a result, you use many more words than necessary to express a thought. You would not want to read a transcript of most conversations.

After nearly 20 years writing email, people still plunge in and type away in a think-it-through-as-you-go manner, punching in the words as they come to mind, until they feel they have said what they need to say. With little time devoted to editing, the workplace is swimming in verbose communication.

Here are original sentences from email or social media posts, followed by revised versions:

Original: I thought I would check in to find out if your team has finished …
Better: I am wondering if your team has finished … (save six words)
Or maybe even: Has your team finished … ? (save 10 words)


Original:
  One thing I would like to know is how many people plan to attend …
Better:  I am wondering how many people … (save 5)
Best: How many people plan to attend … ? (save 8)

Original: A common mistake that people make is that they weaken their argument by…
Better:  People frequently weaken their argument by ( save 5)

Be aware of our tendency to pour out more words than are needed to express a thought. If you can say the same thing in fewer words, do it, and avoid burying your main idea. Remember, we are all readers, so do for the reader what you wish reader would do for you when she hits reply.