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man-and his wife-hadn't understood. Business writing is different from
the writing you learn in the classroom. This is because both
and the image you want to project of yourself are different.
the teacher assigns or negotiates a
topic with the students. There is a
specific word count involved.
may be asked to write a 1,000 word essay comparing the use of symbolism
George Orwell's book 1984 and Margaret Atwood's Handmaiden's Tale.
student then scrambles to read the books (not having quite completed the
earlier assignment), looks up the word symbolism and tries to make sense
of the assignment.
student runs into three problems.
Understanding the assignment
and pulling the information from the texts.
required word count.
Students soon clue into the idea that these two
problems can be solved by writing about the same point several times but
using different words. This hides the fact that the writer isn't too
clear on the topic and brings up the word count.
If a student can make himself sound ten
years older and give a pompous flavor to his paper, he will get top
This is difficult because of the vocabulary level. If you listen
to many teenagers words such as like, rad, yo (now in the dictionary),
duh, dissing are sprinkled throughout their conversations. None of these
will fit into an English assignment. But the solution lies in the
man I know writes his essays according to his normal speech patterns and
when he is finished uses the thesaurus to upgrade all the nouns to
polysyllables. It changes an easy-to-read document into a more
complicated one and certainly gives in a more ponderous flavor. And,
yes, he always receives top marks.
So this is
what we learn in school: how to disguise our thoughts if we are not sure
what we are saying, how to pad sentences with unnecessary words, and how
to project the image of someone we are not.
style of writing work in the business world? Absolutely not.
readers do not receive a salary for pouring over our efforts. Our
readers are busy people who want to pick up documents, read them quickly
and know what they are to do next. They also want to feel there is a
live, warm-blooded person writing to them-not the ghost of Ernest
some tips for today's writing:
Change nouns to verbs when possible.
For example: An announcement was made by the president. Better: The
Start sentences with and, but or because, if you want to use an informal tone.
Russell, the English philosopher once said, "Little men use big words,
big men use little words." These ideas link into
Jane's idea that "people
of influence are the men and women within an organization whose opinions
count - not necessarily because they rank high on an org chart -
but because they have acknowledged experience or are associated with
people of authority."
© Jane Watson can be reached at