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The first is the familiar KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. Make your writing easy to understand. Simple writing is easier for your reader to remember and to comprehend. If you compare Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, for example, to the latest bill from Congress, one says it all very simply and briefly, yet beautifully. The other talks a lot,
but says very little.

This is not a new concept. George Orwell said “Never use a long word where a diminutive one will do.” Bring it down a level. Talk as normal people do. Winston Churchill said, “Short words are best, and the old words, when short, are best of all.” In other words, use familiar words that people recognize. Now, I’m not saying to use a big word that conveys your idea efficiently – if it’s appropriate for that person or audience – but rather to not use confusing language.

  • If you mean “to begin,” don’t say “commence” or “initiate.” The bigger the word is, the more open for interpretation that word will be.
  • If you mean “to give,” don’t say “render.”
  • If you want to say “facilitate,” say “teach” if that’s actually what you mean, because “facilitate” could mean much more than “teach.” It could mean “help.” It could mean to “gather a group about for discussion.” There are so many uses of the word “facilitate.” Keep it easy to understand, and say what you mean.

Second, make sure that in your job search you’re not writing simply to be pompous and pretentious. Seek to express what you mean to say, not just to impress your reader. Some speak using heightened vocabulary simply in an attempt to impress people. Do you really speak that way? Now, I know some people who have an extremely elevated vocabulary, and when you get into a private conversation with those people, they really are speaking with this lofty vocabulary. If that’s truly you, that’s fine, but don’t put in writing what you normally would not say.

Making Your Communications Concise

The second C, again, is to make your communications concise: simple and short. Let’s go through some principles on this one.

First, eliminate wordy or redundant expressions. In people’s writing, you see a lot of prepositional phrases that really say the same thing twice. The more words you can get rid of in your writing, the more power and energy it will have. Instead of saying “continue on,” you would just say “continue.” Why would you say “continue on?” Would we “continue back?” Of course not, so you would just say “continue.” What about “cooperate together?” People say this all the time: “We’re going to cooperate together.” What are we going to do? “Cooperate apart?” Of course we’re going to cooperate together – just say “cooperate.”

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