Six Types of Words That You Should Axe in Business Writing

By: Courtland Bovee

In business, we often compose messages in a hurry-e-mails, notes, urgent reports, or last-minute projects. Editing is, therefore, especially necessary to rid your writing of confusing, boring, and obsolete elements.

This article helps you decide which words to cut and which words to put in their place.

1. Unfamiliar/Technical Words. You will communicate best if you use words that are familiar to your reader. (Clichés are an exception to this rule-words and phrases that people have heard too often tend to turn off their minds a little and propel their eyes on to the next thing.) To create effective business communications, assume your reader is a layperson with limited technical knowledge of the subject-do not write over your reader's head by using technical words or jargon.


find out, learn
close, bring about
read, study

2. Long Words. A paragraph full of long words can be yawn inducing. Make an effort to use short words; they tend to be more easily digestible.

During the preceding year, the company was able to accelerate productive operations.
The action was predicted on the assumption that the company was operating at a financial deficit.

Last year the company was able to speed up operations.
The action was based on the belief that the company was losing money.

3. Abstract Words. The line between abstract and concrete words is hard to define, since all words have something of the abstract in them. In general, abstract words have a greater number of meanings, most of them somewhat vague, so your reader has to try to interpret which meanings apply. Concrete words are those that give your reader a specific mental picture.

sizable loss
near future
work saving machine

34 percent loss
on Wednesday
performs the work of five operators

4. Passive Words. Verbs are the strongest words, and they are at their strongest when they are active rather than passive. Active-voice verbs show their subjects in action; passive-voice verbs act on their subjects. While the passive is needed for variety and has definite uses (such as to avoid placing blame), the active voice strengthens and shortens sentences.

A sales increase of 32 percent occurred last month.
The new procedure is thought to be superior by the president.
The office will be cleaned by the janitor.

Sales increased 32 percent last month.
The president thinks the new procedure is superior.
The janitor will clean the office.

5. Camouflaged Words. Watch for these endings in the words you use (check the polysyllable words): -ion, -tion, -ing, -ment, -ant, -ence, -ence, -ancy, -ency. Most of these endings are used to change verbs into nouns and adjectives. In effect, they are camouflaged verbs. Get rid of them and strengthen your writing.

The manager affected implementation of the new rules.
Adaptation to the new office environment was made easily by the personnel.
We make verifications of the shipments weekly.

The manager implemented the new rules.
The personnel adapted easily to the new office environment.
We verify shipments weekly.

6. Unnecessary Words. Most business writing could do with a pruning job. To reduce unnecessary words, start with a clear idea of what you want to say. After composing, go through your message and cut every word that is not essential to your meaning.

consensus of opinion
first and foremost
just recently
ask the question
basic fundamentals
exactly identical
very unique

(either word, but not both)

So be your own editor, cut the poor and unnecessary words, and polish your writing to make your communication in business more effective than ever.

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