In Business Writing, Make Sure You Keep It Simple…

January 30, 2017 – 6:34 pm

Something I notice on a regular basis when I read business letters, memos, reports, and other such documents is the use of unnecessary words to over-describe a situation or condition. These are known as redundant or superfluous words. It’s very easy to get into this bad habit when writing. I often catch myself falling into that trap and trying to over-emphasize a situation.

In fact, using two or three words when one will suffice can weaken your point rather than strengthen it. Often it will look like unnecessary exaggeration. Making your written documents more complicated and cumbersome than necessary will only hurt your case. For effective written communication, I recommend that you make every effort to avoid using unnecessary words and phrases.

The following is a short sample list of some of the more common redundant words and phrases that I often see, alongside shorter and less cumbersome alternatives:

absolutely essential ………………… essential
accounted for ………………………….. caused by
actual experience …………………… experience
attached please find ……………….. attached is
at your earliest convenience …… soon
consequent results …………………… results
despite the fact that ……………….. although
few in number …………………………. few
for the purpose of ………………….. for
free of charge …………………………. free
in advance of …………………………… before
in the process of being …………….. being
in the near future ……………………. soon
is suggestive of ………………………. suggests
make a decision to ………………….. decide
make the acquaintance of ……….. meet
mutual cooperstion ………………….. cooperation
on behalf of ………………………………. for
on the grounds that …………………. since
perform an analysis of ……………… analyze
provided that ……………………………… if
take under advisement …………….. consider
under no circumstances ……………. never
until such time as ………………………. until
within the realm of possibility …… possible

The above is just a sample list of 25 examples that I put together to illustrate my point in this article. The obvious lesson that one can be drawn from these examples is: the simpler the better — don’t use two or three words when one will do the job.

I should mention that the words and phrases shown on the left-hand side above, are not wrong. They are just a more convoluted and cumbersome way of saying something that can be stated more simply; as the alternatives illustrate. Nevertheless, for style reasons, there may be situations where the phrase shown on the left is more appropriate in a particular context. Or, there can be situations where one may choose to alternate between the two approaches, in order to avoid repetition.

To see a longer list of redundant words and phrases, with alternatives, click on the following link:


Tags: , , , ,

  1. 26 Responses to “In Business Writing, Make Sure You Keep It Simple…”

  2. Dear Shaun,

    Thank you for the messages you send on writing. They are very helpful and enlightening.
    Keep up the good work, and may this year be a happy one for you.
    Thanks once again.

    By Helen on Jan 31, 2017

  3. Thank you so much

    By Its very nice on Jan 31, 2017

  4. Dear Shaun,
    I really appreciate your post. It will be of immense help to me. Thanks a million.

    By Francis on Jan 31, 2017

  5. Thanks Shaun for simplifying English for me. You are right, some of the phrases are used to avoid a word that was used before resulting in a monotonous tone. These words reduce the numbers of words and will be useful when I write abstracts for conferences. i am keeping the list for future reference.

    By Busi on Jan 31, 2017

  6. Thanks Shaun for your valuable advice.
    It is a common problem. Another once is to avoid the usage of the same word in the business letter. That becomes then repetitive. Personally in this case I use the synonyms.

    By Yelena on Jan 31, 2017

  7. Dear Shaun,
    I am very pleased to receive your post. It is very helpful to me in use for my emails. I will read many times to learn all and will learn also the longer list.
    I really appreciate all your posts and my apologies for my missed comments in the past.

    By Mahmoud on Jan 31, 2017

  8. Dear Shaun,

    I do appreciate receiving your posts. As always, they are a big help. Recently I heard about tendency to use plain English in official documents. Have you heard anything about it? I think it’s a good approach since not all people possess formal/official language.


    By Rena on Jan 31, 2017

  9. Dear Shaun,

    Thank you for you continuous guidance and lessons. Before reading your January 2017 post to the write place blog I wrongly used those words and phrases on the left hand side. This will help me write better English.


    By Tilahun on Jan 31, 2017

  10. Thanks for posting and I am guilty of using some of those words. Now I will be more alert . Keep posting.

    By Kim on Jan 31, 2017

  11. Hi Shaun,

    This is amazing.
    Happy New year to you!


    By SK on Jan 31, 2017

  12. Happy New Year Shaun,
    Thank you for the precise words.It is good to precise and short.
    Clarity is very important .

    By Asiah on Jan 31, 2017

  13. Hi Shaun,

    Thanks for your continuous assistance. I am always looking forward to receiving your email because it is so inspiring. There is always a reminder or a lesson in it for me. You are one in a million who cares about people. I appreciate this so much.

    Kind Regards

    By Georgie on Jan 31, 2017

  14. This article highlights the importance of not wasting words. Thanks Shaun.


    By James Kershaw on Jan 31, 2017

  15. Hi Shaun
    Your posting is always welcome. It is a lot of work to keep up. I know because many years ago I maintained one although in a different context.
    A few weeks ago I sent a new book to my epublisher.
    It deals with highly provocative matters concerning ISIS jihadi and US policy. The publisher may have some comments although they have published five manuscripts.
    By the way, it is hard to make money in a very crowded market.

    By John on Jan 31, 2017

  16. Hi Shaun,
    Your simple words for business really help, because sometimes you don’t find the right words, so this gives positive understanting.
    – victor

    By victor on Jan 31, 2017

  17. Great article. Thanks you for all the writing tips you provide to your readers. They are helpful. Keep them coming.

    By Vera on Jan 31, 2017

  18. Hi Shaun,
    Thanks so much for your expertise in the use of the English language. Since English is my second language, your tips have been a great help in my everyday routine. They have been God-sent in my job and in informal situations.
    Happy New Year 2017.

    By Cecilia on Jan 31, 2017

  19. Dear Shaun,
    Though, both of you could not skate this time, I wish you would still enjoy the winter and continue being enjoyed with the tennis tournament being held in Melbourne and watched the good performance of Roger F. and Rafael N. through tv broadcasting.
    We need to keep in mind, however, that according to a Jewish Rabbi’s prediction, this tiny world, would end in 2025 (8 more years to go)because of a collision with a new twin-planets existence at that time. Also, we could, however, ignore this prediction; who cares!
    Our lovely country, Indonesia, is now still in rainy season, though, it should have been dried already, The world is changing, Shaun, I believe.
    Furthermore, on-on Shaun with your good writing tips, and thank you with your list of redundant words, that may make my business writings simpler and shorter in the future. W.u.p. convey my kind regards to your smart daughter.
    AAY (Ashari Alie Yinne)

    By Ashari on Jan 31, 2017

  20. Found this very useful – Less is more!
    Thank you.

    By Rukhsana on Feb 1, 2017

  21. Dear Shaun,
    I’m so very grateful for what I’ve got from you. This means a lot for me. I will always be able to make better and simplified letters for my job.
    This has inspired me a lot.
    Thank you so much.

    By Lujies on Feb 2, 2017

  22. Dear Shaun,
    Hope you’re well and enjoy your skiing. Happy Lunar New Year coming in my country too. This year is being a little bit rainy and overcast. On the first day of the year, it was raining. Everybody felt sad because they couldn’t go out and pay a visit to somewhere they intended to do. It is cooler than last year and we enjoy it so much.
    Thanks for your useful post. I find it hard to distinguish these phrases. I sometimes make some mistakes on them but when I learn how to write it helps. It is said that we should use some alternative phrases not to repeat in essays. Instead of saying “meet” several times, we should say “make the acquaintance of …” shouldn’t I? I hope you tell me more clearly about this matter?
    Thanks a lot.

    By Thuy on Feb 3, 2017

  23. Good question Thuy. As I said in the article those longer phrases aren’t wrong, they are just long and cumbersome, so it’s better to use a shorter alternative(s) if such exists.

    However, you have to be careful about the context. For example, I can’t imagine a business letter or other serious business document where one would use the phrase “make the acquaintance of …”, instead of “met”, or “meet”, or “encountered”, or “came across”, or “crossed paths with”, etc. So, to avoid repetition; instead of using the long phrase that you quoted, try mixing up your use of the four or five alternative words/phrases that I just listed here.

    By Shaun on Feb 3, 2017

  24. Many thanks!

    By Thuy on Feb 5, 2017

  25. Hi Shaun

    Thank you, what a post!

    It may look obvious, but in a day, I write several emails (internal & external) and those short phrases shall henceforth save me those extra seconds; cumulatively to be used for some other task. Needless to say, my recipients shall enjoy the same benefit.


    By Job on Feb 8, 2017

  26. Hi Shaun,
    Thanks for your valuable advice. I am keeping the list for future reference. I really appreciate your post and it will be very helpful for me.
    Again Thanks.

    By Muhammad Rizwan on Feb 9, 2017

  27. Great post Shaun! However, even the best among good business writers sometimes cannot help writing long and sometimes pedantic phrases to make a point emphatically. Often they need the embellishments, just to garnish the simple thoughts they are trying to express. Well, your post should keep them, and of course us, the common folk who try to write clear English, within acceptable boundaries.

    By Paddy on Feb 10, 2017

Post a Comment

Comments will be closed on February 10, 2018.