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

By Robert Barrass | Go to book overview

7

Say it without words

It is possible to communicate without words. In speaking we use gestures and facial expressions as well as words. In writing numbers enable us to be precise; and photographs, drawings and diagrams make possible the communication of information or ideas clearly, concisely, forcefully and quickly - either without words (as on some road traffic signs) or with fewer words than would otherwise be needed (see Figure 7.1). Text tables and illustrations also help to break up pages of writing, provide variety for the reader - and by capturing the reader’s attention they help the writer to emphasise important points.

The immediate visual impact and the lasting appeal of an effective illustration accounts for the attention paid in business to developing brand names and to the design of logos, as visual symbols to promote the public image of organisations - in letterheads, on packaging and vehicles, and at points of sale.


Using numbers as aids to precision

A politician may say that a fund will be established ‘of substantial size and adequate coverage over a considerable period’. Vague words are used to express hopes when it is not possible to be precise. Consider the meaning you wish to convey before using the word very with an adverb (very quickly) or with an adjective (very large), and before using adverbs (for example, slowly) or adjectives (for example, small, appreciable, large and heavy) or modifying and intensifying words (for example, comparatively, exceptionally, extremely, fairly, quite, rather, really, relatively, and unduly). Such meaningless modifiers do not help your readers, and are likely to annoy them:

Whenever anyone says I can do something soon I’ll say to them yes, I know all about that … but when, when, when?

Alan Sillitoe, Key to the Door (1961)

-81-

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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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