Read, Memorize, Use
The best writing advice I know, succinctly laid out by the invaluable Seth Godin. Rather than just posting a link, I’m reprinting the entire blog post – but feel free to click on the link and read it in Godin’s format, if you prefer.
Come to think of it, you should click on the link anyway and subscribe to his blog. He’s always got something useful to say.
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. You don’t need cliches.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. Avoid long words.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Write in the now.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. When in doubt, say it clearly.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. Better to be interesting than to follow these rules.
The reason business writing is horrible is that people are afraid.
Afraid to say what they mean, because they might be criticized for it.
Afraid to be misunderstood, to be accused of saying what they didn’t mean, because they might be criticized for it.
Orwell was on the right track. Just say it. Say it clearly. Say it now. Say it without fear of being criticized and say it without being boring.
If the goal is no feedback, then say nothing. Don’t write the memo.
If the goal is to communicate, then say what you mean.