Module 4: Word Choice, Conciseness, and Tone (May 24, 2012)
Objectives: By the end of this module, you should be able to:
use familiar language to communicate your ideas concisely,
explain the impact tone can have in business messages, and
differentiate between personal and impersonal style
Readings: Chapter 3 and 4
What is a Business Style?
Definition: the rules, conventions, and options you need to consider whenever you write.
A business style is a reflection of how you and your company do business
Key things to consider:
Use correct grammar
Think about the “sound” of your words
Eliminate frustrating and confusing messages
A good business style helps with:
Personal growth, and
A plain style uses the following conventions:
Plain and everyday language (but not slang)
Common everyday works (ex: “express” rather than “delineate”
Reasonable sentence length
Active-voice verbs and phrasal verbs
o Passive: The letter was mailed by John
o Active: John mailed the letter
Personal pronouns ( I, you, and we)
o Instead of: John Smith is to be named the new vice president of marketing and
John Smith will be working gout of the Toronto office
o Use: John Smith is to be named the new vice president of marketing and he will
be working out of the Toronto office
Unambiguous language (clearly represent what you are trying to get across to the readers)
Close subject and verb placement
Avoid overly long sentences
o Overly Long: Literally, global warming refers to an increasing global temperature
over time, although by the early 1990s, more than 70 definitions of global
warming were in circulation, definitions that are important, despite their number,
because they are the basis on which the means for achieving an effective action
plan in the future can be built.
o Three sentences: Literally, global warming refers to an increasing global
temperature over time. By the early 1990s, more than 70 definitions of global
warming were in circulation. These definitions are important, despite their
number, because they are the basis on which the means for eliciting action in the future can be built.
Use familiar words whenever possible.
o Curb your use of:
Words ending in “ize” and “ization”,
Words derived from French,
Foreign words and phrases,
Jargon, and buzz words
Use language that is fresh and current.
o Edit for
Outdated business expressions,
Text messaging language (smiley’s and emoticons).
Keep language specific, precise, and functional.
o Tips to remember:
Provide specific details and concrete nouns to help readers act on
information and requests.
Quantity facts and avoid vague qualitative statements
Avoid ambiguous and non-idiomatic expressions
Use comparisons and analogies to clarify meaning
How will the message be transmitted
o How you communicate reflects both your own and your organization’s ethical
o Be reasoned, factual, and moderate in your judgements (unbiased, inclusive, non-
o Consider the impact on other and yourself
o Consult qualified colleagues
o Avoid libellous language.
o Be timely and accurate
o Avoid untrue, deceptive, and misleading statements
o Know disclosure practices, proper channels, and confidentiality
o Acknowledge sources to avoid plagiarism
Achieving conciseness requires a fine balance
Conciseness is desirable but too much can make writing uneven, choppy, blunt, or rude.
Aim for: Conciseness, completeness, and politeness.
Eliminate long lead-ins.
Revise noun conversions (nominalizations).
Revise empty words and phrases.
Use precise, strong, and accurate verbs. Original (does not achieve conciseness):
o This is a just a very brief memo to inform you that it is the opinion of the
employee council that at the present time it is expedient to undertake an
investigation of the possible institution of a proposed on-site fitness centre.
Kindly be advised that anytime up to August 31 you should make your views
known to your employee council representative.
Revised (does achieve conciseness):
o The employee council invites your input on the proposed creation of an on-site
fitness centre. Please contact your employee council representative before August