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The Write Stuff May 2017 Volume 13 Issue 5

Concise Language: Yeah or Nay?

This might seem like an odd query from someone who regularly espouses “less is more.” But, those of you who are using the latest version of Microsoft Word may be learning the same lesson I am: its definition of concise is not the same as mine.

Here are some phrases that earn a “use concise language” alert, along with the recommended alternatives:

Original Phrase

a number of
an absolutely perfect
may actually be
take a peek

Word Recommends

a few, many or several
a perfect
may be
peek

And here’s my favorite: I wrote, “They pay tribute to the town’s most important industries — cotton, in particular.” Word recommended getting rid of “in particular,” which makes no sense.

Of course, some of its recommendations are valuable, such as using “each recipient” instead of “each and every recipient” or “planning” instead of “planning ahead.” But, the words you choose typically depend on context — which is something Word doesn’t know — and sometimes a word like “absolutely” or “actually” adds necessary emphasis.

My recommendation? As I’ve said many times before, don’t blindly follow the guidance Word provides you; when weighing the merits of so-called concise language against what you’re trying to say, you should usually follow your gut. And, “buyer beware” with respect to grammar recommendations, like these two I recently received:

  • I typed “an occasion worth celebrating” and Word recommended putting a comma after occasion.
  • I typed “ensure it’s manageable,” and Word recommended using its instead.

Why Complex?
May 19 will mark 15 years since my dad died. He was an excellent writer who loved to show off his extensive vocabulary — even though I told him countless times simpler is always better. In his memory, here are some complex words, and their simpler alternatives: ameliorate and improve, expeditious and fast, proficiencies and skills, renumeration and payment, commence and begin or start, deleterious and harmful, prescribed and required. To ensure your audience doesn’t stop reading when faced with unfamiliar words, always write simply. Sorry, dad. Miss you every day.

Shout-out
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to surround yourself with people you trust to help you do things outside your skill set. I’m please to recommend three organizations that are providing great service to me: Rackspace, my new e-mail host; Inexpensive Web Solutions, designer of my new website (debuting in a week or so); and Tiny Frog Technologies, which will host my website and maintain it. If you’re in the market for any of these services, you can’t go wrong with this trio. They are especially great at providing peace of mind for those of us who aren’t technically gifted.
Published On: May 25th, 2017 / Categories: 2017 /

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