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Use language to express, not to impressTop

Words, words, words. The dictionary is packed with them. But do you have to use them all?

A youngster asked his teacher, "When is the best time to see the moon?"

The teacher replied, "A skilled envigilator can best observe the lunar surface in that stage of the earth's rotation during which the interference of solar illumination is minimized."

The teacher could have said, "Look for the moon at night."

Business has no time for long or fuzzy words. Effective business communication is built on simple, but hard hitting words. Every word must convey a precise meaning that is understood in the same way by sender and receiver. To speak and write like a pro, use short, simple words and avoid unnecessarily complicated sentences. Avoid teflon words—words that are so over-used they just don’t stick—words like solution, and value-added.

Of course, all words have specific meanings. However, some words are more specific than others. Avoid pretension and use those "more" specific words to speak and write vigorously. Use shirtsleeve English to be sure that you and your audience are on the same wave length. It’s that simple—and that’s smart.

Business language update guideTop

If the language you use is out of date, out of favor, or out of left field, your business communication fails to hit the mark. Whether you are presenting to an important client, writing a prospecting letter, a follow-up letter or a proposal, you need to update and upgrade your business language to stimulate a positive response. 

Avoid Low Information Content Words: 


a majority of most
administrate administer
advise or inform tell or say
as per regarding/according to
as per your request as you requested/as you asked
at the rate of at
at this point in time now
attached herewith I have attached
attempt try
avail yourself use
basic principles principles
by means of by
check in the amount of check for
consensus of opinion consensus
construct build
despite the fact that although
due to the fact that because
during the course of during/ while
enclosed please find . . . is enclosed/I have enclosed
equitable fair
facilitate help
fact of the matter fact
first of all first
for a period of for
for the purpose of for
further to our discussion since our discussion
give encouragement to encourage
I apologize it is regrettable
inasmuch as since/ because
in connection with about
infrequent rare
in accordance with according to
in the event that if
in the nature of like
in reference to, in regard to about
in order that, in order to to
in view of the fact that since/because
involves the use of uses
is designed to be is
large number of many
make an adjustment in adjust
meet with your approval if you approve
not in a position to cannot
occurrence event
orientated oriented
personal opinion opinion
past history history
please find enclosed please find enclosed
please do not hesitate to contact us/the undersigned please contact us/me
please be advised that (eliminate, just begin)
preventative preventive
provide assistance to assist
pursuant to since
requisite required
same (as in "copy of same") copy
still continues continues
take into consideration consider
terminate end
the writer me or I
the undersigned me or I
to my attention/to myself to me
utilize use
usage use
we regret to inform you (eliminate)
we would ask that please
wherein, herein, the foregoing (eliminate)
with the result that so
Yours Truly, Sincerely,


Guide to gender-neutral writingTop

It used to be that "he" was the standard pronoun of indeterminate gender. It used to be, when you didn't know to whom you were writing, you simply wrote "Dear Sir." Maybe it used to be acceptable to ignore women in business, but be assured, it is not acceptable any more. Indeed, it's actually preferable to make a minor grammatical error than to risk insulting half the population.

You don't call a female governor a governess, do you? Why call an author something other than what she is?

Good business writing requires both clarity of thought and attention to detail. Today, more than ever, people may be offended by sexist words and images. Good writers look for ways to avoid using "he" as the pronoun of indeterminate gender. 

  • Eliminate the pronoun.
  • Pluralize the pronoun.
  • Repeat the noun.

For example, instead of: Everyone should take his seat. 

Use: Everyone should take their seats—OR—Everyone should take a seat. 

The following are examples of ways you can eliminate sexual stereotyping.

  • In addressing letters, if the sex of the addressee is not known, begin your letter with "Dear" followed by the initials and surname.
  • In writing text, use parallel language when the names of a woman and man are mentioned together—so that women are portrayed as equals: 
    John Doe and Linda Smith
    J. Doe and L. Smith

  • Repeat the noun.

Avoiding business clichésTop

Once thought to be the hallmark of strong oral skills and good business writing, these tired and trite phrases now indicate a shocking ignorance of current business trends. Either eliminate the following clichés completely, or translate the phrase into your own friendly, everyday language:

all things being equal
as per your
at this point in time
attached herewith is
by means of
Dear Sir/Madame:
Dear Sirs:
due to the fact that
Enclosed please find
for a period of
further to our discussion
I trust the above has been helpful to you
Thanking you in advance for your cooperation
I am writing this letter to . . .
in view of the fact that
in the event that
in accordance with
in the foreseeable future
in all probability
involves the use of
meet with your approval
Please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned
Please be informed that
Please feel free to contact the writer
pursuant to your request
pursuant to your letter of . . .
regarding the matter of . . .
solutions provider
The purpose of this letter is to . . .
To Whom It May Concern:
we regret to inform you
we wish to state that
We are pleased to advise
With reference to your phone call of
Yours truly
Yours faithfully
Yours very truly

Write rightTop

Communication is the professional power tool. To sharpen your edge, remember these important rules.

  • Check to see if you any words out.
  • Don't never use no double negatives.
  • Don't be redundant or repetitious.
  • It is always a mistake to ever split an infinitive.
  • Exaggeration is the worst thing you can do.
  • Always remember to never generalize.
  • Do not use prepositions for ending sentences with.
  • About incomplete sentences.
  • The passive voice is to be avoided.
  • Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  • Each pronoun must agree with their antecedent.
  • Run-on sentences ruin your writing be sure to avoid them always remember that.
  • For clarity, endeavor to utilize prosaic syntax and rudimentary verbiage.
  • As per clichés, avoid them like the plague.
  • Be sure to use apostrophe's correctly.
  • Foreign words are never de rigueur.
  • Parenthetical comments (even good ones) muddy your writing.
  • Avoid using, unnecessary commas.
  • Use hyphens only for words that depend on each-other.
  • Between you and I, case is important.
  • One word sentences? Avoid.
  • Never use exclamation marks in business writing!
  • A writer must never shift your point of view.
  • Always use adverbs to describe verbs correct.

The Ten Commandments of clarityTop

Thou shalt:

  • simplify language
  • shorten sentences
  • capture each paragraph with a strong lead sentence
  • excite with strong verbs
  • insert power lists
  • provoke action with active voice writing
  • rely on present tense
  • eliminate brackets and slashes
  • dump the garbage

Books by Fern LeboTop

Two books by Fern Lebo are available to you online. Order Mastering the Diversity Challenge: Easy On-the-Job Applications for Measurable Results and Your Outplacement Handbook: Redesigning Your Career from: 

































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