Plain Style: Techniques for Simple, Concise, Emphatic Business Writing

Plain Style: Techniques for Simple, Concise, Emphatic Business Writing

Plain Style: Techniques for Simple, Concise, Emphatic Business Writing

Plain Style: Techniques for Simple, Concise, Emphatic Business Writing


Good writing is good business. Simple, straightforward writing saves time, creates good relationships, and prevents expensive misunderstandings. But why is it so hard to achieve? This incisive guide suggests ways to think about writing -- what it should look and sound like, as well as what it should accomplish -- that can simplify how writers choose to express their ideas. It examines the reasons why many businesspeople with good skills tend to write strange, needlessly complicated sentences -- and shows them how to break the habit. Plain Style offers 35 practical techniques that foster simplicity, conciseness, and emphasis.


If you believe that a toothpick should be called a toothpick, and not a wood interdental stimulator, and if you would rather read We think than It is at this point in time the opinion of the committee that, then you are threequarters of the way to writing simply, and the advice you find here will help.

Everyone agrees that simple, straightforward writing saves time, wins customers, and prevents expensive misunderstandings. Complicated writing does the opposite—and while the stuff of business, science, and regulation isn’t simple, writing should be. E = mc , for example, expresses a mind-boggling concept in a breathtakingly simple way. Too often, however, business writing races in the other direction. When the writer means We must define and rank our marketing goals but writes, Marketing stratagems must be definitized and prioritized, he is complicating a simple idea.

Too much of today’s business writing is needlessly difficult to understand. and certainly, in a world that grows more complex by the moment, simplicity of style becomes increasingly important. This book shows you how to strip the complexity from your writing—how to write in a way that not only satisfies the rules and is creditable to your organization but is clear on first reading, contains no clutter, and sounds remarkably like reasonable speech. Such writing is called concise, and it’s what good business writing should be.

Plain Style

In business writing, style should be invisible. It should never be an issue. It must never call attention to itself, never intrude on the ideas themselves. Most important, it must never create needless complexity. Every expression should be functional, like the two-by-fours used (and hidden) in the framing of a house, not displayed or flaunted, like the gorgeously grained mahogany used in paneling.

Plain style is what results when the writer has a clear idea and decides to convey that idea. Not to express it, but to convey it. There is a . . .

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