My high school English teacher shunned the standard textbooks, selecting instead a small paperback with a big reputation, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. I still have my original copy–it’s my favorite reference when I’m unsure about grammar or word choice, or when I need a little style inspiration.
For me, one rule stands out because it’s so critical to the business writer, #17: Omit needless words. If you’re a writer, you also need to be an editor, with one overriding goal–clarity. Every word must have a purpose.
As marketers, we’re speaking to an audience that is inundated with information and pressed for time. In this world of tweets and likes and comments, we need to cut back on formality and adopt a conversational tone that’s straightforward and concise.
This doesn’t mean that it’s OK to abandon the rules of grammar and proper spelling. Everything we write and publish is a reflection of our values. Our customers want to purchase products and services from organizations that care about accuracy–because accuracy creates trust.
In my most recent role on an internal creative services agency, I did my best to move away from the traditional writing style that I find excessively long and boring. When writing, I was direct–I simply left out those extra words that muddle our ideas and confuse the reader. When editing, I never hesitated to eliminate words, or even entire paragraphs if they served no purpose. My clients were at times surprised by my boldness, but they grew to appreciate the simplicity of this approach.
The next time you’re reviewing any type of communication, take a few extra minutes to assess the clarity of your words, and you’ll become a “smart editor.”