After much consideration it has been decided that, due to the unforeseen circumstances that occurred last month, the need for additional security placements at the various entrances including the west and east will be implemented in accordance with company guidelines and that all staff are instructed to ensure compliance and instruct all visitors of the new policy and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
The sentence above is 63 words. The individual words are understandable, but the sheer length and sidetracks that the writer goes down makes it difficult to follow. There are a number of main and sub-points in the sentence and it requires too much concentration on the part of the reader. In a world where we are bombarded with information in the form of memos, emails and letters, it is more than likely that the message will be ignored.
The Oxford Guide to Plain English (Oxford University Press) has some simple recommendations to make your writing shorter and tighter.
- Split and Disconnect
- Split and Connect
- Say Less
- Use a List
- Cut Verbiage
Split and Disconnect is to ensure that you place a full stop after each main point. So rather than using “and” place a full stop and start a new sentence. In the example above, “will be implemented in accordance with company guidelines and all staff are instructed to” remove the “and”.
-implemented in accordance with company guidelines. All staff are instructed to………….
My suggestion is to read everything you write aloud in your head and if you feel the need to pause/take a breath then you should insert a full stop.
Split and Connect is when you split the sentence with a full stop, but also insert a connector. such as but, so, also, therefore or further.
In the example above you could insert therefore or consequently.
-implemented in accordance with company guidelines. Therefore, all staff are instructed to…..
In the example above, you can delete many of the phrases and words:-
That brings the word count down to 37 and the meaning is still clear.
Use a List
Due to the last month’s unforeseen circumstances we have decided:-
- Additional security at all entrances (including West and East).
- All staff should ensure their own compliance.
- All visitors should be informed of new policy and apologise for any inconvenience.
Try and remove the longer words and phrases that might show off your learning, but don’t help the reader. Unforeseen circumstances could be rephrased as incident. As indicated above phrases like After much consideration it has been decided that are meaningless, particularly when you want action from your staff.
Guy Perring is Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the British Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning opportunities from management and communication skills training to developing English skills. Visit our website at www.britishcouncil.org.my or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.