Section 3.2

Wordiness and Ornate Language

Writers sometimes use a hundred words where fifty would do. This tendency, known as wordiness, weakens writing in several ways.

First, it shows a lack of respect for the reader’s time and suggests that the writer has not bothered to revise sufficiently. In business, wasted time means wasted money.

Second, verbosity obscures the writer’s ideas by hiding them amid a word surplus. Is it easier to find a needle in a haystack or to find a needle amid a few wisps of straw?

Finally, wordiness frequently signals to the reader that the writer is seeking to hide a lack of substance.

Related to wordiness is the tendency to use unnaturally ornate expressions in an effort to dress up a piece of writing. Why write is cognizant of when you can substitute is aware of or knows about? Why write due to the fact that when because will do? The answer is: there is no reason. Straightforward, succinct language will draw less attention to itself and keep the reader’s attention on your message.

Business correspondence frequently contains unnecessarily ornate expressions such as please find attached or pursuant to your request. Just as these expressions would sound stilted in speech, they sound stilted in e-mails, letters, and memos. Replace them with more direct, natural language, as illustrated in the table below.

Ornate Expression More Natural Alternative
please find attached
attached please find
I have attached or attached is
please find enclosed
enclosed please find
I have enclosed or enclosed is
please be advised that [nothing] or please note that
per your request
as per your request
pursuant to your request
as you requested
per our conversation
as per our conversation
as we discussed

Eliminating problematic phrases can dramatically improve your writing style. Consider the effect of a few simple word-choice substitutions in the following pairs of sentences.

Unnecessarily Ornate Revised
Pursuant to your request, please find attached the status report. As you requested, I have attached the status report.
Please be advised that the conference will end at 4:00 instead of 3:30. The conference will end at 4:00 instead of 3:30.
As per our conversation, I have asked Deirdre to research the new location. As we discussed, I have asked Deirdre to research the new location.