Common Obstacles to Clarity in Corporate Communication
How to achieve clear, stylish corporate communication
Clear, concise language is the key to successful corporate communication. You want your material to capture your reader’s attention. And you want them to read it from start to finish. That means effectively expressing your message in the shortest possible time. The way to achieve that is to keep your writing simple and succinct. Remember, less is always more.
We are constantly bombarded with longer, fancier words in what we read and hear. It is easy to be lulled into thinking that these words are somehow more impressive, that there is something wrong with simpler sentences. In fact, the strongest sentences use short words instead of long words and remove every word that isn’t working. Take out the clutter and unclog your writing! Finally, read your writing aloud. It’s a great test of simplicity and clarity in communications.
Here are some of the most common obstacles to clear corporate communication – and some solutions:
Wordiness: The fastest way to send your reader to sleep is to load your prose with long, repetitive sentences. Take a hard look at every word on the page. Each one should have a purpose. If it’s not working, fire it!
Use a mix of short and longer sentences: Keep your writing lively and the reader captivated with a mix of sentence lengths. Limiting long sentences can be challenging in technical writing. However, with complex material it is even more important to keep sentences shorter to improve readability.
Example: “BC needs more electricity. BC Hydro is predicting an increase in electricity demand of up to 40% over the next 20 years.”
Cut the clutter: Use short words rather than long ones: “use” instead of “utilize,” “new” instead of the heavily overused “innovative.”
Example: “She used the equipment expertly,” rather than “The way in which she utilized the equipment showed great expertise.”
Write with verbs: Verbs are the powerhouses of strong sentences. The best verbs provide the action, the imagery, the colour and the clarity to create lively text. Minimize adverbs and adjectives (See below).
Write with active verbs: Use active verbs unless a passive verb is unavoidable. The passive voice is death to prose while the active voice brings life and immediacy.
Example: “The CEO saw the burglar enter the boardroom,” rather than “The burglar was seen by the CEO entering the boardroom.” Or, “Our technicians bolt data loggers to rock to secure them in the fast – flowing streams,” rather than “Our technicians have bolted the data loggers to rock which has secured them in the fast – flowing streams.”
Minimize the use of adverbs and adjectives: Adverbs and adjectives are often unnecessary. Adverbs with the same meaning as a verb only weaken and clutter a sentence.
Example: “As flames raced through the plant, the alarms blared loudly.” “Blare” means to sound loudly, therefore it is redundant here.
Similarly, adjectives should be used sparingly. The noun usually contains the concept of your sentence.
Example: Dirt is generally brown, so it doesn’t need to be described as “brownish.” However, if the dirt is red in the area you are describing, by all means, add that adjective.
Overusing words: We all have our favourite words. A heavy dose of these may be fine in conversation, but if you want your corporate report or proposal to be read from start to finish, your language must be varied, lively and compelling. Some words are overused to the point of exhaustion. Give them a rest! I once edited a report in which the same term was used five times in one paragraph!
Vary verbs with synonyms: Avoid the kind of clutter described above by using a variety of terms, whether nouns or verbs. Use a dictionary to find synonyms – words that mean the same thing – to give you a range of substitutes. The overused “innovative” is fine when used interchangeably with “new” or “novel.” Similarly, give “enhance” a well deserved rest, in favour of “improve” or “make better.”
Example: “The engineers identified some ideal sites for the plant.” “Identified” can be substituted with “found or “established.” Similarly, in “Our technician has created a specialized data storage system,” substitutes for “created” include “constructed” or “built”.
Make your writing more stylish with alliteration:
Using several words with the same capital letter in a sentence can really rejuvenate readability.
Example: “Several sites were clustered in complex environmental conditions.” Or, “The electronically controlled engine is the main eco-friendly feature.”
These are just some of the ways in which I would be happy to work with
you on making your material more readable for your audience.
Contact me to talk about your project!
Member, Professional Writers Association of Canada -