6 Secrets That Will Power Up Your Language
There’s over 270,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary, but only 3,000 words make up 95% of common texts. But not all words are equal.
Our working world is saturated with words. Phone calls, memos, emails, research… It’s easy to get overwhelmed with words. That’s why the right words matter – and can make the difference between a successful project and, um, kind of, a sort of, flop.
“I only made this letter longer because I had not the leisure to make it shorter.” 17th Century essayist Blaise Pascal hit the dilemma we all face. It’s easy to run on; cutting to the chase requires extra work. But it’s an investment in your reader: the less fluff in your communication, the more likely they’ll remember your email – and respond. Leave the non-work chatter for the water cooler.
Drop the adverbs
Really, very, well, badly… Adverbs are used to describe actions. At work you might use these to describe ideas or performance. Whilst sometimes they’re necessary, it’s better to use a strong adjective. It saves time, and packs more of a punch.
Instead of “That’s a very good idea.” Try “That’s a great idea.”
Instead of “This quarter we performed really well.” Try “Our performance has been excellent this quarter.”
Stop thinking/feeling/believing. Know.
Building on from that, stop using opinion words like “I think this” or “I believe that.” If the sentence is in an email from you, your reader is aware who is writing it. These words make you sound unsure, and lack confidence. Whilst opinions have a time and place, cut to the chase and be straight with your reader.
Instead of “I think we need a landing page for this project.” Try “We need a landing page for this project.”
Instead of “I feel that we have to push launch back a week.” Try “We have to push launch back a week.”
Don’t assume: give actions
Maybe you thought your long description of the roadblocks facing your project would inspire your manager to take action and allocate more manpower. But why would it? When everyone is being communicated with, all the time, it gets harder to listen. And without a clear call to action, what are we even listening to? Cut the context; ask for the help you need. Offer up a straight and to-the-point action.
Be active, ditch the passive voice
Actions are louder than words, and that goes for your tone too. The passive voice is most often used in science writing. It is less engaging, and makes it harder for your reader to reach the same conclusions.
Instead of “The meeting was chaired by the CEO.” Try “The CEO chaired the meeting.”
There are far more resources on the passive voice online than we can fit here, we particularly like Education First.
End on a thanks
Statistically, you are most likely to receive a response to an email that ends “Thanks in advance,” followed by “thanks,” “thank you,” and “cheers.” Not only is it good manners to thank people for their time – it encourages your reader to take action.
Communicating clearly gets your point across, and gives you power. And the beauty of written communication is that you can redraft your message before sending. There are even tools online that help you do this. So take on board some of our rules, and see what changing up the way you communicate can do.