Most business people
are very clear on the types of documents they like to read: they want
documents that are brief and written in an easy-to-read style and they
want documents that get to the point quickly, state the purpose in the
beginning, and request specific action.
also know what they don't want: dull, boring pieces that have no visual
appeal and "sound" as if they were written by a robot. They
don't want to have to get out their dictionaries to check the meaning
of a word. Nor do they want to sort through long, repetitious paragraphs
to find the "meat" of the message.
However, most readers
forget this when they write. They wear one hat for reading and another
for writing. That's why many business people write documents, they wouldn't
want to read.
Here are some of
the hats business writers sport:
is an academic hat usually seen at graduation ceremonies. People who
wear this hat like to impress others with their literary eloquence.
They use long sentences, formal phrases, and wrap up their messages
in detailed paragraphs. You may have trouble following their thoughts,
but you know their grammar is impeccable (although outdated). They also
practice sesquipedalism -- using long words.
The bowler is a
19th century derby hat. And that's where these writers belong -- in
another century. They rely on clichés to deliver their messages.
(Clichés are words and phrases refreshing 50 years ago but lacking
in sparkle and sincerity today.) These are the writers who open their
letters with such lines as "Please find enclosed" or "I
wish to acknowledge receipt of your letter of ..." and end with
a stale phrase, such as "Please don't hesitate to contact me."
The Pith Helmet
The pith helmet
is a hard hat used for protection when taking long, difficult journeys.
Following writers who wear pith helmets can be confusing. You enter
into a stream of consciousness - theirs - and try to follow them as
they ramble on and on and on until you gasp for breath. You know if
you stay with them, you may learn something valuable, but the journey
is difficult. These writers avoid punctuation and short sentences. Some
of their sentences even double back on themselves.
"At this point
in time, it is important that we note that sales are not as high now
as they were in the past and this cannot be stressed enough as we enter
the fourth quarter."
this is not a hat, it is a head covering - a wig popular from the 17th
to 19th centuries. Normally, writers who wear periwigs are lawyers,
although others may adopt this style. These writers use a pompous tone,
as well as outdated expressions. They prefer to write numbers two different
ways - to ensure they are understood. Their goal is to baffle rather
than inform. "In view of the aforementioned circumstances, please
find enclosed herewith ten (10) copies of the latest ruling for your
perusal and possible furtherance."
The baseball cap
is a modern hat, sometimes worn backwards. Although writing styles are
not as formal as they once were, it is possible to be too informal.
The baseball cap wearers do not see the importance of good grammar or
punctuation. Their documents are riddled with unexplained acronyms,
spelling errors, incomplete sentences and half-baked thoughts. "With
regards to my TRG visit to your site last week with John Brown and myself."
They believe writing today should be casual; they don't equate well
crafted documents with a professional image.
None of these hats
are appropriate for today's business place. What type of hat do you
wear when you write?