Many people have heard the advice “write the way you talk” so as to sound conversational in a written message, but an important clarification is missing from that advice. Conversational speech is terribly inefficient, so be sure to edit carefully to make it concise.
Unlike in an important written message, speech is spontaneous. We don’t organize our thoughts before we speak; we just say what’s on our mind. Additionally, we stop in midsentence and start over, we veer off on tangents, and we ramble. We tolerate that as listeners, because we process oral speech quickly, but reading on the screen or on paper is a different experience. Readers get impatient. You might read your message aloud and like the simplified, relaxed quality that you hear, but that doesn’t mean your message represents good business writing.
We are particularly prone to wordiness at the beginning of sentences, as in this example:
Original: I thought I would check in to find out if your team has finished gathering…
Better: I am wondering if your team has finished gathering … (save six words)
Or maybe even: Has your team finished gathering.. ? (save 10 words)
After nearly 25 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 surplus words, as in these examples:
Original: A common mistake that people make is that they weaken their argument by …
Better: People frequently weaken their argument by … ( save 5)
Original: Summer is finally here, and with school out, it’s the perfect time for kids to volunteer for causes.
Revised: Summer is the perfect time for kids to volunteer for causes. (save 7)
Original: She is interested in a position where she can be involved in a company’s strategic planning.
What you are really saying is, She wants a position in strategic planning.