Writing at Work: A Guide to Better Writing in Administration, Business and Management

By Robert Barrass | Go to book overview

6

Say it without flowers

Unlike the novelist who is trying to paint pictures with words, leaving much to the reader’s imagination, your intention in administration, business or management is to convey information without decoration: to express your thoughts as clearly and simply as you can.


Words in context

In a dictionary each word is first explained and then used in appropriate contexts to make its several meanings clear. This is necessary because words do not stand alone: each one gives meaning to and takes meaning from the sentence, so that there is more to the whole than might be expected from its parts. The words in a sentence should tie one another down so that the sentence as a whole has only one meaning.


The repetition of a word

The use of a word twice in a sentence, or several times in a paragraph, or many times on one page, may interrupt the smooth flow of language. This is why experienced writers try to avoid such undue repetition. But so-called elegant variation can be overdone. For example, in one paragraph on a sports page of a newspaper a team may be referred to by the club’s official name, by the colour of the team’s shirts, and by the name of the club’s ground. A reader has to be familiar with all these names to understand the message.

In business communications the right word should not be replaced by a less apt word for the sake of elegant variation. Instead, be consistent, always refer to a spade as a spade. You may also repeat a word to emphasise a point. For example, in the last paragraph the word by was used three times in one sentence - to draw attention to each of the items in a list - although only the first by was actually needed to make sense.

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Writing at Work: A Guide to Better Writing in Administration, Business and Management
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • 1 - Writing at Work 1
  • 2 - Do It This Way 8
  • 3 - Write a Better Letter 28
  • 4 - On Form 50
  • 5 - Say It with Words 57
  • 6 - Say It Without Flowers 69
  • 7 - Say It Without Words 81
  • 8 - Something to Report 99
  • 9 - Helping Your Readers 122
  • 10 - Finding and Using Information 133
  • 11 - Just a Minute 144
  • 12 - Talking at Work 151
  • Appendix 1 172
  • Appendix 2 180
  • Appendix 3 185
  • Bibliography 193
  • Index 194
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