Powerful use of words
Getting to the Point
Economical and Powerful Use of Words
When speaking, how many of us sometimes ‘talk out’ our thoughts and simultaneously try to search for the essence of what we want to say?
Do you feel like saying to some people, ‘Can you just get to the point?’
Whether writing a report or a speech, preparing to give evidence, or speaking in public to a few people or a large audience, there is a need to be clear and concise with your words.
The specific contents, its order and presentation, will meet the criteria for each task. However, there are considerations to be an effective writer or speaker.
Think of the six Cs: CLEAR CORRECT CONCISE COURTEOUS COMPLETE CONSISTENT
- Clear in language
- Correct in content
- Concise in words
- Courteous to the audience / reader
- Complete in details
- Consistent in expression
Effective preparation means writing and editing drafts so the main points in the content are clear and concise. When speaking, your words also need to be economical.
A. Choose words which clearly convey your meaning.
English words generally have two types of meanings:
Denotation is the precise literal definition of a word; the dictionary meaning. Connotation is the emotional meaning and refers to positive and negative associations which the words carry.
- Slender, thin and skinny have the same denotive meaning, however different connotations.
- The word ‘chicken’ has the denotive meaning of a domestic fowl, and it can also have the connotative meaning of someone who withdrew or failed in something through the lack of nerve – they ‘chickened out’.
B. Always follow the words this, that, these, and those with a noun.
Unclear: I will take these. (these what?)
Clear: I will take these clothes.
Unclear: I do not want that. (want what?)
Clear: I do not want those shoes.
Writing concisely means writing in a way that is brief, yet comprehensive. It expresses what needs to be said without unnecessary words.
- Eliminate unnecessary words and phrases
Wordy: We will be home in a period of two weeks.
Concise: We will be home in two weeks.
- Use straight forward language
Wordy: It has come to my attention by looking out the window that there are many unwanted weeds in the front garden.
Concise: Weeds are growing in the front garden.
- Shorten sentences
Wordy: Pam will let me know if she can get away from work and make the trip to the conference.
Concise: Pam will call me if she can attend the conference.
- Write in the active voice – Subject (doer) + verb + object / recipient
Wordy: A decision was made by the committee to vote on the issue.
Concise: The committee decided to vote on the issue.
- Avoid starting sentences with there is, there are, and it is
Wordy: There are seven group leaders who reported to the Director.
Concise: Seven group leaders reported to the Director.
- Omit extra nouns and allied words
Wordy: Sue was interested in the civil engineering industry.
Concise: Sue was interested in civil engineering.
- Eliminate filler words such as that, of, up, just and basically
Wordy: I knew that she was alone.
Concise: I knew she was alone.
Wordy: I stepped up on the doorstep.
Concise: I stepped on the doorstep.
Wordy: Could you just send me the file when you have a moment?
Concise: Could you send me the file when you have a moment?
Wordy: Basically, I could eat ice cream for any meal.
Concise: I could eat ice cream for any meal.
The advantages of being clear and concise are:
- The message is more powerful
- It is easier to capture and keep the listener’s attention
- It saves time and mental energy for the writer, the speaker and listener
- It is an effective way to facilitate understanding and insight
- Listeners can process smaller bits of information more effectively
How do you become a more economical and powerful wordsmith by being clear and concise?
- If writing a report or a speech, is it clear and concise? Is there anything missing? Does it need further editing?
- If speaking to a report or a document, know the content and possible questions and comments.
- If speaking impromptu, before talking, think about and quickly decide your main points.
- Use as few words as possible.
- Allow pauses in conversations and impromptu situations to enable thinking time.