Posted by: Jack Henry | October 9, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Flowery Language


It’s been awhile since we’ve chatted. I was on a mission to Germany to visit relatives and participate in Oktoberfest with my best friends. Well, now I’m back, and ready to rumble!

I know you may think of us editors as red-pen-wielding wildcats, but we have a calmer gentler side to our positions: we offer writing advice and instruction to others, and sometimes we get the opportunity to mentor those who do a lot of writing in their daily jobs.

Sometimes we work with people who love flowery, friendly, abundant writing—but they want to learn how to tone it down. Others come to us with very terse, no-frills, stark writing—and they want to learn to add some flair. Our goal is to teach writers to work somewhere in between terse and frilly. We aim for clear, concise, polite communication. We want to get the point across without wasting anybody’s time.

I have a few tips for those of you who ask for advice about that middle ground. Keep in mind that we are talking about business English. If you want to wax poetic with your personal writing, go for it. We’re just trying to guide you here at work.

Today, I’m offering help for those who tend to write lengthy documents and emails. Tomorrow we’ll have a look at those of you who often write one-word emails.

Potentially flowery folks, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is this information necessary? (Under most circumstances, you don’t need to include weather forecasts, questions about the reader’s new puppy, or a lot of adjectives to describe the situation.)
  • Am I being redundant? (You only need to say it once, one way. You don’t need to tell them the same thing three different ways—that’s confusing.)
  • Is this the best way to say what I want to say? (Use straightforward sentences with a subject, verb, and object. For example, “Call Tony S. to repair your printer.”)
  • Is this information in any way confusing? (Re-read what you’ve written. Make sure it progresses smoothly. If it involves steps, make sure all of the steps are included.)
  • Am I using easily understood words and phrases? (Are you proactively leveraging something? Are you architecting something impactful in your wheelhouse? Is your holistic approach to open the kimono? Well then stop! Be simple and straightforward; avoid jargon.)
  • Am I using long sentences? (We often see lengthy sentences that could be two or three separate smaller sentences. The easier your sentences are to read, the easier your writing is to follow. This is particularly important with technical information.)

A sunny Munich day with my buddies.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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