You can take three very specific steps that will allow you to write better. First, challenge every word you use and get rid of the clutter. Then, when you have only the words you need, make sure they are the best words you can use to convey your idea. This means using strong verbs. Finally, look at whether you have made clear who is accountable for the action in the sentence. You’ll accomplish this by putting the actor in the right place in the sentence based on your objective. After these three steps, there are some miscellaneous points to address.
Remember: the longer your document, the less likely it is to be read. Keep it short so that people read your ideas and act on them. That’s how you have impact.
What is clutter? Clutter is the stuff that gets in the way. Whether in our living rooms, our family relationships, or our writing, clutter is what keeps us from moving smoothly through life. We all have stuff that’s been sitting on our kitchen counter for years that we only touch to move out of the way when we’re cleaning.
The same is true of our writing. The clutter gets in the way of our ability to have impact.
When you write in a professional context, you write to get something done. You want people to either know something or do something based on your writing. Challenge every word in your document. (Throughout this section, when I refer to “document,” please think broadly. I’m including emails ...