Business Writing

Cut it Out

If you don’t need a word, remove it. If it doesn’t add anything to the meaning, get rid of it. Be ruthless. Often when we write more words, we make it harder for our reader to understand what we really want to say. Our meaning gets lost. When you edit your work (you do edit before you send, don’t you?), check for these things. Your readers will thank you for it.


One of the main types of words we need to get rid of is the wonderful, often amusing, tautology—that is, when we say the same thing, over and over, again and again in different ways. Listen to people speaking and you’ll hear it all the time. It’s amazing how often we repeat ourselves. But it’s out of place in business writing.

  • You don’t want to repeat yourself, over and over, again and again.
  • You don’t want to return back.
  • Please rewrite the report again. (This could be okay. You might have already rewritten the report once.)


Then of course there are the words that we use to intensify another word. But take care. ‘Very’ before ‘large’ or ‘small’ is fine. But ‘very’, ‘quite’, ‘exceptionally’ and the like have no place anywhere near ‘unique’. It is unique, or it is not—there are no degrees of uniqueness. So cut them out.

Also avoid having strings of modifiers. ‘The tiniest, smallest minority voted against it.’ A ‘small minority’ does the same work, more elegantly.


Next there is officialese. Which of the following is easiest to read and understand? ‘I refer you to the matter previously discussed in this forum and to the minutes of the meeting of 1 June 2014. In accordance with our previous agreement I would appreciate it if you could sign them and return them promptly to my office before the end of the month, 30 June, to ensure that we have a record of you having seen them. Thanking you in anticipation.’

‘Please take a look at the minutes of the 1 June 2014 meeting, sign them, and return them to me by the end of the month. Thank you.’