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127 Top Business Jargon Examples [And How to Fix Them]

by Mary Cullen on Tue, Jun 5, 2018

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Topics: Etiquette, Business Writing Style, Effective Business Writing, Business Writing Etiquette, improve business writing

What is Business English? [A Simple Definition]

by Katie Almeida Spencer on Fri, Feb 17, 2017

There’s a lot more to learning a second (or third or fourth!) language than just vocabulary and grammar because languages are used differently in different contexts.

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Topics: Business Writing Style

When To Use Time Sensitive Salutations [Etiquette Mistakes]

by Mary Cullen on Sun, Nov 20, 2016


Two participants in our Effective Business Writing course recently questioned why using “Good Evening” was not best practice for an email salutation.

We always want to engage our reader, and shape any document, including email, from our reader’s perspective, not our perspective. With email, when the recipient is likely to read the email is more relevant than when we send it.

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Topics: Business Writing Style

How to Hone the Right Tone in Business Writing

by Mary Cullen on Tue, Jul 16, 2013

Where is the line between personality and professionalism in business writing tone? How much of our personality should shine through our documents?

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Topics: Business Writing Skills, Business Writing Style

Business Writing Style Top Tip: Positive Language

by Mary Cullen on Mon, Jul 16, 2012

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Topics: Business Writing Style, Writing for Business Newsletter

Clarity: the Key to Perceived Truth in Business Writing

by Mary Cullen on Fri, Jul 22, 2011

Worrisome new research out of New York University and the University of Basel indicates that imprecise business writing and jargon isn't merely annoying and meaningless. They can also be perceived as lying to certain readers.

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Topics: Business Writing Style, Writing for Business Newsletter

Recommended Business Writing Style Guides

by Mary Cullen on Fri, Jun 17, 2011

 

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Topics: Business Writing Style, Writing for Business Newsletter

Business Writing Style Tools

by Mary Cullen on Mon, Apr 19, 2010

(Issue 27: April, 2010)
This issue offers a strategy reminder and a tool to measure your business writing clarity.

Good strategy is summarized by Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and even the A-Team's Mr. T.:

  • "I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in." - Mark Twain

  • "It is not enough to write so that you can be understood; you must write so clearly that you cannot be misunderstood." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • "Don't gimme none o' that jibba-jabba!" - Mr. T

A good tool is the Readability Measurement within Microsoft Office and Outlook. By default, the "Spelling & Grammar Check" feature is enabled, and of course you should always run it to check for typos and errors. It is not infallible, but it will flag many errors. The Readability Measurement must be enabled, and will assess:

   1. Words per sentence (average)
   2. Percentage of passive sentences
   3. Flesch Reading Ease score
   4. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

Why paying attention to these four readouts can improve your writing:

Words per sentence - In general, the longer the sentence, the harder it becomes for your reader to follow along. That's not to say you should always write in short sentences. Instead, strive for a variety that makes for interesting and engaging reading.

Percentage of sentences written in the passive voice measures the readability of your text as the ratio of passive sentences over active sentences.

The lower the score, the better. Active sentences are nearly always easier to read and understand, thus making your message clearer and more persuasive. Aim for a score less than 20%.

The Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) is the standard test of readability used by the U.S. Department of Defense for its documents and forms. It indicates how easy it is to read a given document.

The results can be between 0 and 100. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand what you have written. For example, a typical issue of Reader's Digest earns an FRE score of around 65 while Time Magazine scores in the low 50's. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address scores a 74.2. One way to score higher is to use shorter sentences.

       The results can be interpreted as following:

        * 0-29 - very confusing & hard to read
        * 30-49 - difficult to read
        * 50-59 - fairly difficult
        * 60-69 - standard
        * 70-79 - fairly easy
        * 80-89 - easy
        * 90-100 - very easy

Recommendation: A score of 60 or more. Higher is better. Even for business documents, a score of 60 is very achievable and it takes only a few edits to obtain it.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL) measure translates the Flesch Reading Ease measure to a grade level. The grade level means the number of years of education generally required to understand a text. For example, a score of 9.4 would indicate that the text is expected to be understandable by an average student in the 9th grade. Most newspapers in the U.S. are written at a seventh to eighth grade level.

Recommendation: 8.0 to 10.0 is a good target, but lower is better because it reflects language clarity, not content complexity.

In business writing one should "write to express, not to impress." This does not mean you should dumb down your ideas and concepts. Instead, it requires you to express them with clean language.

These measurements are not perfect. They only assess the textual structure of your document, not content. But, they will provide snapshot measurements to diagnose the textual clarity in your documents.

                                                        Download Clarity in Business Writing Guide

Learn More in This Course: Effective Business Writing Techniques

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Topics: Business Writing Style, Writing for Business Newsletter

My Most Trusted Business Writing Style and Grammar Guides

by Mary Cullen on Mon, Jun 15, 2009

I am often asked which sources I use for business writing style and grammar guides. These are my most trusted sources:

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Topics: Business Writing Resources, Business Writing Style