Get Better Results with Specific Language

Cover image
woman writing an email using specific language

Effective business documents are concise, explaining key details with specific language.

Too often, people write long-winded paragraphs packed full of industry buzzwords. While they intend to sound professional and demonstrate knowledge of the latest business jargon, typically readers will be left confused about the message and frustrated.

Consider this example:

Company operations for the concluding accounting period terminated with a deficit.

After reading that sentence one time, do you understand what the writer’s message is? Is your instinct to re-read it again to make sure you’re understanding it correctly? It’s frustrating to have to waste time reading a sentence over and over to try to figure it out.

For business writing to be effective, the meaning should be easy to understand and quick (not painstaking!) to read.

Here’s what that example looks like if we rewrite it using concise and specific language:

Sunnyside Inc. ended the first quarter with a 2.1 million loss.

We can quickly scan the second example sentence and understand it. There is no guesswork. Effective business writing is a skill that we can learn and improve with practice.

Five Tips for Writing Clearly

Never leave your readers guessing.

When you’re writing any sort of business correspondence, take a moment to check that you’ve included the important information. Is there anything else the reader might need to know or want to know?

For example, if your staff members are going to attend an offsite retreat, key information points might include:

  • who is attending
  • what is happening on that day (the purpose, the goal, and some highlights)
  • when it’s happening (both arrival times and when it’s over)
  • where it’s being held (venue, address, and parking details)
  • what to bring
  • how to dress (business dress or casual)

Get to the point with shorter, more common words.

Rather than getting carried away with long and impressive words, choose words that your readers will know instantly and be able to read quickly. Consider:

If you are not satisfied with your procurement, you are entitled to restitution.


If you are not satisfied with your purchase, you are entitled to a refund.

Some readers might not immediately know the meaning of the words “procurement” and “restitution.” If they must check a dictionary to figure out what you’re saying, your writing has cost them time unnecessarily. Readers will appreciate the second sentence’s easy-to-understand words.

They will also appreciate you choosing specific rather than vague words. For example, instead of saying:

The majority of clients felt that this advertising campaign was effective. (“Majority of” is vague and meaningless – is it 50.1 percent or 75 percent?)


More than 80 percent of clients we surveyed said this advertising campaign was effective. (We get a good idea of how many.)

Be cautious using industry-specific terms and acronyms.

Many industries have specific terms and acronyms they use routinely. It’s important to ensure that all your readers will know the meaning. It’s standard style to write out the full name for the first reference and put the acronym in brackets. Then, for any subsequent references, you can use the acronym on its own. For example:

Our Commanding Officer (CO) is retiring. We are waiting to hear who will replace her as CO.


Our analysts have determined the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for this project. The KPIs are used to evaluate our progress.

Try not to overuse acronyms. More conversational writing is much more interesting for your audience to read.

Avoid bureaucratic jargon.

This includes legalese and what people call business speak or buzz words. Instead, use shorter phrases that most people know and understand. This way, your message isn’t lost in convoluted sentence structures and confusing wording.  Consider:

At the end of the day, we need to drill down the reason why we are failing to get buy-in from other departments.


We need to look more closely at the reason why we aren’t getting enough support from other departments.

Get rid of bulky phrases and clutter.

When you write something, read it over and see if you have unnecessary phrases and wasted words. If you have included words that don’t add value or clarity, delete them. Writing concisely is considerate of your readers, who will get your message quickly and completely understand the meaning. Here are some examples:

Instead of writing:Use:
with regard toregarding
by means ofby
until such timeuntil
in view of the factbecause
adequate number ofenough

Following these writing tips will help you write using concise and specific language. Communicating effectively ensures that readers get all the information they need, understand your message quickly, and trust the reliability of the information that you share.

Marie Antaya avatar

By Marie Antaya, CTDP

Author of The Eclectic Writing Series.