Clutter. We all have it in our lives, whether it’s that kitchen drawer stuffed with decades of smoke detector manuals, or stacks of paper under a sticky note saying “To Be Filed.”

In the past few months I’ve faced a whole new level of clutter, because I’ve been getting ready to move out of my house. Now that I’m down to the wire (moving day is this week!) everywhere I go there are partly packed boxes and loose objects. The whole packing process has been almost enough to make me hire a “clutter counsellor” (Yes, they do exist!).

Of course, sometimes I am a clutter counsellor myself, except my counselling is about words, not basements filled with dusty old tools. Cluttered writing can be a real problem in business. One that’s important to solve. That’s because cluttered writing is confusing. And in business, the last thing you want to do is confuse your clients, customers, or colleagues. Here are a few examples of cluttered and decluttered writing, to give you a sense of what I’m talking about:

1. A Clutter Classic:
When developing this level of complicated software there are factors such as duration, which may impact the ultimate goal. Therefore, it is possible that the client could need to take this into account when considering the timeline feasibility and launch of the project.

The Declutter:
The software we’re developing is complex. Consequently, it’s impossible to predict exactly when it will be ready. This could have an impact on the project’s timeline and the completion date.

2. A Wordy Wonder:
It was so great of you to meet with me and I want to thank you for sharing so much of your valuable time, especially when I know you are really swamped. But I can’t tell you enough how glad I am that you seem interested in our technology solutions, because I really do feel that they will be of potential benefit to your company. Once you are less busy I really look forward to having the opportunity to speaking further with you about the project.

The Declutter:
Thank you for taking the time to meet. I realize you’re extremely busy, and I appreciate the opportunity to share our technology solutions with you. I’m glad that you seem to see the potential benefit we could bring to your company. I look forward to discussing the matter further.

3. A Jargon Jungle:
If we are incentivized we will drill down to find a transformative approach to your technology problems and find a solution that really has legs.

The Declutter:
If you pay us enough we will work hard to find a new, long-term solution to your technology issues.

The Language Lab Decluttering List
So, what are some of the strategies you can use to declutter business writing? I suggest you use this “Language Lab Decluttering List,” that we advocate in our business writing courses.

  • Use short sentences
  • Use appropriate punctuation
  • Use simple words
  • Avoid adjectives
  • Avoid jargon
  • Don’t say the same thing twice
  • Use bullet points when you have a list of ideas to share-like this list

We’d love for you to share some of the strategies you use to declutter your writing? And if you need a clutter counsellor for your business communications, contact me at The Language Lab.



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