TMI, oversharing, precision, clarity, simplicity, writing

There are times, in our culture of over-sharing, when you just want to put your hands over your ears and say, “TMI”!  People tend to share too much information, especially when it comes to social media! Yet, there are times when you’re asked to share far more about yourself than is necessary or wise.

For example, in order to lure new clients, who sign up for life insurance, John Hancock Insurance offers them a “Fitbit.” The Fitbit monitors the client’s fitness and health data. And if you lead a healthy lifestyle, John Hancock will reward you with “vitality points.” This means that the Hancock Fitbit sends all your personal, up-to–the minute information to the company, itself.  Think about it, if you eat too much junk food and you are a couch potato, the insurer might think twice about your low insurance rates.  You have to wonder why anyone would want to share that kind of information with the very company whose job it is to determine whether or not you’re fit enough to insure you!

TMI can easily backfire on you when you’re communicating in business. It’s all too easy for a new client to stop reading an email message with too much unnecessary information, or if your writing is difficult to follow because the sentences just keep running on. For example, which of the following emails are you more likely to finish reading?

1/ Dear Important Client, 

Regarding your concern about the look of the ad you asked us to design we did communicate your ideas to our team but the thing is they must have chosen to modify the concept by going in another direction. Although I’m pretty sure that the end result does achieve what you had hoped for, based on the meetings we had on May 10 and 11, and also the conversation the entire team had with your team when the project was just in its initial stages. But we can definitely fix it no problem so that it looks more like what you were originally thinking of.  

2/ Hello, 

I received your email expressing your concern about the appearance of your advertisement. Clearly there has been a miscommunication — my sincere apologies. We’ll revisit the notes from our initial meetings and redraft the work.  

I am sure you were rolling your eyes at some point while reading example number one! TMI in business communication is bound to be either confusing or annoying, or both. But you can you remedy TMI by always keeping these three key points in mind:

1/ Precision: Use precise language. Choose the word that most clearly expresses your point.

2/ Simplicity: Less truly is more. Use one thought per sentence. Don’t use a complicated word when a simple one will do.

3/ Clarity:  Strengthen your message by being clear and direct. Communicating effectively is not about impressing your audience with “purple prose” — it’s about making sure you are understood.

Mark Twain famously said, “Writing is easy, all you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” And you know what? He was right.

Would you like to learn more about creating effective business communications? Contact me at The Language Lab. 

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