I remember when I was working at Scottish Widows, we received a vast number of emails a day. Some contained important information to read through, but others were too long and meandering, and the same for documents. I wonder how many were skim-read? Being concise is the general rule. Even technical documents can get to the point sooner if well structured. So, how to cut the waffle?
First, drop the filler words.
These are redundant words that take up space, but don’t add additional meaning. The opposite, even; as fillers get in the reader’s way.
Second, use the active voice.
It’s shorter and to the point.
For example, compare the following:
- The meetings that occurred in quarter four were useful; in that, basically, we learnt that X, Y and Z, needed to be changed in our corporate strategy.
- From the quarter four meetings, we learnt to change X, Y and Z in our corporate strategy.
Third, proofread sentences well.
Here’s an example of a long and potentially confusing sentence from a legal website.
We are proud to have an exceptional team of Criminal Defence Solicitors with expertise in all of areas Scots Law, committed to representing our clients interests and providing the best defence possible to those who have been accused or charged with a crime.
There are typos: clients’ interests not clients interest, and what does ‘in all of areas’ mean?
There are also missing connecting words which I would place after the comma to make the sentence flow.
What if we rewrote it like this?
We are proud to have an exceptional team of Criminal Defence Solicitors with expertise in all areas of Scots Law, who are committed to representing our clients’ interests and providing the best defence possible to those who have been accused or charged with a crime.
I would also cut ‘are proud to have’ as it gets in the way of the important part of the sentence: my exceptional team and what they can do for you!
If you’re looking for a proofreader to help polish your final manuscript please get in touch.
Who is Emma?
Emma is a proofreader with 18 years of writing experience with businesses, academics and creative writers. She obtained a Creative Writing MA (St Andrews University) and a PhD in Storytelling (Warwick University). Then set up her own proofreading business and became a published author of fiction as well as academic literature such as Young People, Learning & Storytelling (Palgrave Macmillan).