Get Better Results with Specific Language

When trying to create effective business documents, we are often told to be concise. While this is important for business documents, conciseness needs to be paired with specific language. A document can’t be clear if vague language is used or important details are left out.

When writing documents, always ask yourself if you’ve included everything the reader needs and wants to know. For example, if you are planning a staff social event, have you explained why you are holding the event? Where and when it will be? What will happen and who is invited? It won’t matter if you have a short, fun email if you forget to tell people when it is. 

It’s also vital that you avoid vague sounding words such as some, few, many, and very. You may think these words add emphasis, but they provide little value to your document. Some words may sound specific but aren’t, such as the word majority. If you say a majority of staff like our new benefits plan, how much is a majority? Do 50.1 percent of staff like it or 95 percent? There’s quite a difference between those two figures.

Anytime you use vague language, you leave it up to your readers to fill in the blanks and make guesses. This can lead to problems for everyone.

Remember, when trying to be specific:

  • never leave your readers guessing
  • use shorter, more common words when possible
  • avoid industry and bureaucratic jargon (also called business speak)
  • remove bulky words that don’t add value (such as very and really)
Marie Antaya avatar

By Marie Antaya, CTDP

Author of The Eclectic Writing Series.