Don’t lose the message in a sea of words
No matter how we communicate—whether it be speaking, emailing, texting—we all want to be understood. But we often lose track of this goal, particularly when we communicate in writing. This may be, in part, due to the academic training many of us received.
Do you remember being told to write an essay or report that had to be a specific number of words? Do you also remember cramming in as many unnecessary words as possible to get to that number? Those essays contained a whole lot of “in other words…” “which brings us to the next point” and “what we can clearly see here is that…”
Business writing is about unlearning all of that word padding so you can effectively communicate only the essential information to your audience. Your teachers and professors may have had all day to read through a lot of unnecessary words, but your clients and colleagues do not—and should not.
When writing for a business audience, it is always a good idea to write in plain language. The definition of writing in plain language is:
“Writing that sets out essential information in a way that offers the best chance of understanding it, at first reading, in the sense that the writer meant it to be understood.”
Let’s break this down.
- Essential information
- Providing only the information the reader needs to understand or take the next step
- Using no more words than is absolutely necessary – avoid “crutch” words – actually, basically, etc.
- Best chance of understanding at first reading
- They should not need to read it multiple times or ask you to repeat yourself to understand what you are saying
- Information is presented in a clear and concise manner, using uncomplicated language
- Meant to be understood
- The content should not be ambiguous or up for interpretation
- Limited use of jargon and complicated language (know your audience)
- Terms are clearly defined, when necessary
In other words, here’s what I told you
After writing your piece, go back and edit out any unnecessary or repetitive words. One thing to watch for, that most people do, is repeat what you just said. If you find that you are writing the phrase, “In other words” or “to summarize,” you are probably being repetitive. You only have to say it once. If there are “other words” that are better, and a “summary” that is more concise, use this wording the first time.
With a little bit of practice, you can learn to speak in plain language when it comes to life insurance and be a better source of information for your customers.