In some cases, simplifying writing is particularly important, and no one should fear that they are “dumbing it down.”

Readers rarely spend much time on a given page, unless they have a particular reason to dig deeply or unless they know they are on the one page that has the information they need. Other than that, readers are moving quickly; they are on a mission in search of an answer.

But too often, writers balk at simplifying their writing, as if they feel insulted. But simplifying doesn’t mean being simplistic. You are not writing a Dick and Jane book for toddlers.

So remove words that don’t contribute, and use words from everyday conversation whenever possible.

Flab interferes with simplicity, because extra words create needless complexity. Don’t say, “Is there anyone who can handle the uploading of the articles?” if all you need is, “Can anyone upload the articles?”
You can trim seven words from “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your participation …” by starting the sentence, “Thank you for your participation …” What do the other words add?

Conversational words are better because they tend to be simpler and shorter. Don’t use “ameliorate” if you can say “improve,” and don’t choose “commence” when “start” works just as well.

Simpler language helps to ensure that you meet the needs of different audiences: people with different literacy levels, people from diverse cultures, and people with physical or cognitive impairments.

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Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available here at

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