Business Writing

Be Specific

Be specific. Be concrete. By spelling things out you make it easier for people to understand. You are also more credible.

If you find yourself writing something like, ‘Funds have been set aside for the refurbishment of various assets’, ask yourself what you really mean, what it is that you’re trying to say. Does this sentence mean anything at all? Look at the words and phrases.

  • Funds: how much?
  • Have been set aside: by whom? Who is footing the bill?
  • Refurbishment: modernization, replacement or a lick of paint?
  • Various: which ones?
  • Assets: what are they? Buildings, cars, photocopiers, printers?

Now look at this sentence: ‘The Sydney division of the company has set aside $500,000 dollars to replace all the computing equipment and upgrade the photocopiers.’ We now know exactly who is paying, what the budget is, and what it’s for. This tip is important when you’re answering questions at job interviews. Compare ‚I supervised a team of ten with a budget of $4 million and our sales increased by 30% year on year from 2005 to 2008.‘ with ‚I supervised a big team with a pretty good budget. Our sales increased every year.‘ Which example gives you more information, and coincidentally is also more credible? When you have numbers you can check facts.


Here are some other examples of specific and general words/phrases:

[table format=1]
About Relating to the situation regarding
Door Entranceway
TV, radio Broadcast media
Public transportation facilities Trains, buses and trams
At 1500 hours In the afternoon


Remember that you want to make things easy for your reader. When you send an email, avoid using words like ‘the current situation’. Your reader may be in the midst of 5 or 6 different ‘current situations’. Be specific and spell it out.