Whether or not you’ve taken our tongue-in-cheek style test, if you already consider yourself a Churchill of writing then you’ve probably perfected the four secrets of a good communicator.
Here’s what all three ‘D’ test sentences look like when put together:
‘We apologise for the unfortunate break in service, which was caused by problems with our IT system. Should you wish to cancel the agreement, under our new policy you must inform us in writing three days in advance. Email us now – we would love to hear what you think.’
We’re not saying this is the only or even the best way of writing our example paragraph. But in just 53 words it demonstrates four essential components of a good writing style, as identified by writing style sage, F.L. Lucas.
So what are those four components? Well, they are as follows:
- Clarity – The three main messages are easy to see – sorry for the failure of service; cancellation now requires three days’ written notice; and, why not get in touch. There is nothing ambiguous and nothing has been obscured by clutter.
- Brevity – By sticking to the point and choosing precise terms to get the main messages across, the paragraph is delightfully brief too.
- Variety – This is essential to avoid writing becoming monotonous. Although rather short to demonstrate much, our paragraph nevertheless varies in sentence length, sentence construction, the words used and even to some extent its tone.
- Simplicity – Most business writing demands some degree of formality in tone and content. As a rule, colloquialisms, slang and contractions shouldn’t be used. This does not mean, though, that our language cannot still be simple. A good test is to read your writing aloud. If both the words and their logic flow like a conversation that is neither pretentious nor sloppy, then you’re probably there.