Business Writing Tip #2: Be Efficient

Today’s business writing tip (#2) is be efficient. That  means making every word count so that you don’t waste your (or your reader’s) precious time. Get rid of needless words and get to the point quickly.

Take a look at these phrases: blue in color, respective offices, month of September, individual employees, three different companies. They’re all time-wasters.

Why not just write “blue,” “offices,” “September,” “employees,” and “three companies”? What’s the difference between a “respective office” and an “office”? Between an “individual employee” and an “employee”? Between “three different companies” and “three companies”?

While you’re at it, get rid of time-wasting information like “We received your letter” (obvious) and “Joe Smith forwarded your inquiry to me” (so what?).

Effective openings would be:

Thank you for your letter of March 4.

Yes, we can special-order the polo shirts you asked about in your November 6 letter.

Or you can use a subject line (“Your March 4 letter”) or (“Order 631750”).

These principles save time for everyone. Let’s use retail as an example. When I go to a store to ask a question about the merchandise, I usually get a speedy answer. Even if the associate needs to get the information from someone else, it takes only a few words to tell me what I need to know: “I just checked with the delivery office. They said they can deliver your refrigerator Friday morning.”

Now consider how this information would be expressed by an employee who’s committed to the language-as-badge philosophy:

This letter is in response to your inquiry of September 3 about the feasibility of delivering a Westinghouse refrigerator Model #702 in Jadite green – the color you requested – this Friday morning. Your question was forwarded to me for the reason that Jenny Parker, the sales associate, was called away to a meeting and was not able to follow up on this matter. After I was in contact with the delivery department, Carmen Santos confirmed that the refrigerator in question can indeed be delivered on Friday morning. INEFFICIENT

And here’s how the letter could be written to build a bridge to the customer:

We’ll be happy to make a Friday morning delivery of your Westinghouse refrigerator, Model #702, in jadeite green. Please call 212-555-1212 to confirm the details. Thank you for shopping at Al’s Appliances!  BETTER