How to Use Short Words for Better Business Writing

In previous posts on making business writing more readable, we have discussed the importance of using short and simple words. In the following passage from the Members’ Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL), see how short words are essential for clear and effective writing.

Short Words

You don’t have to use long words when you speak or write. Most of the time, you can make your points quite well with short ones. In fact, big words may get in the way of what you want to say. And what’s more, when you use short words, no one will need to look them up to learn what they mean.

Short words can make us feel good. They can run and jump and dance and soar high in the clouds. They can kill the chill of a cold night and help us keep our cool on a hot day. They fill our hearts with joy, but they can bring tears to our eyes as well. A short word can be soft or strong. It can sting like a bee or sing like a lark. Small words of love can move us, charm us, lull us to sleep. Short words give us light and hope and peace and love and health ─ and a lot more good things. A small word can be as sweet as the taste of a ripe pear, or tart like plum jam.

Small words make us think. In fact, they are the heart and the soul of clear thought.

When you write, choose the short word if you can find one that will let you say what you want to say. If there is no short word, then go ahead and consider the utilisation of a sesquipedalian expression as a viable alternative, but be cognisant of the actuality that it could conceivably be incumbent upon many of your perusers to expand, by consulting a dictionary or perhaps an alternative lexicon of particularised patois, copious amounts of their invaluable time in attempting to determine the message you are endeavoring to impart to them through the instrumentality of your missive.

Richard Dowis
From Members’ Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL)