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Stop using these redundant words and phrases right now

If you want to be a powerful communicator, the single most effective skill you can develop is being concise. Cut the waffle and get straight to the point. 


Because nowadays you have seconds to get your message across. In fact, a recent study by Microsoft found that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds. It’s not surprising, given the overwhelming amount of information we’re bombarded with every day. 

So every extraneous word must go.

And, being concise makes you sound more confident. It gets people’s attention. Think about famous speeches: how direct and punchy they are. How every word is considered.

We love these quotes on the subject:

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
― Thomas Jefferson

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”
― Friedrich Nietzche

Why is it difficult to be concise?

A few reasons:

  1. We’re not sure what we want to say
  2. We’re following outdated workplace communications etiquette
  3. We’re trying to avoid being rude and offending people

Let’s have a look at each of these challenges.

  1. We’re not sure what we want to say

Do you ever find yourself frustrated and wondering when the other person will get to the point? When people meander, it’s likely because they’re clarifying what they want to say while they’re saying it. 

We all do it. And it’s perfectly acceptable in some situations. But in the time sensitive working world, it’s vital to take a moment to clarify your message before you begin speaking or writing. Get very clear about the one key point you must communicate, whittle it right down and then stick to it.

  • We’re following outdated etiquette for workplace communications

Emails at work are often painful to read. What could be said in one or two sentences is often written out in several paragraphs that are full of meaningless formalities. The writer is trying to be polite. But in fact, not only are they taking up the reader’s valuable time, they’re also creating a disconnect by sounding like an entity not a human being. 

(Side note: If you want to see how effective one-sentence emails are, subscribe to Neil Patel’s mailing list.)

Being formal distances you from the person you’re communicating with. And success in business depends on your ability to connect with people. You can still be respectful without being formal.

For more on this topic, read: 5 ways to improve your business writing skills right now.

  • We’re trying to avoid being rude and offending people

Yes, when we cut too many words, we’re in danger of sounding rude. “You’re wrong” is nice and concise, but it won’t get you far. Some niceties are needed to soften difficult messages and to stay on good terms with people. But your niceties don’t have to fill whole paragraphs. They can be brief, too.

We go into this in more detail in our online course.

How can you learn to be more concise?

Make it your mission to use only words that serve a purpose. Look back over your emails before sending them and ask: “Which words can I cut without changing the meaning of my message?”

You’ll find many. 

Start by challenging yourself to cut five words from every email before you send it. When you’re good at that, up it to 10.

Here are some examples of words to cut: 

Cut the formal fluff

“As follows: …”

Not:Our findings from this research are as follows: …”

But: “Our findings from this research are: …”

“Please be informed that…”

Not: “Please be informed that your order will be delivered in 3-4 working days.”

But: “Your order will be delivered in 3-4 working days.”

“Please let me know…” 

Not: “Please let me know if you have any questions.”

But: “Do you have any questions?”

Cut the obvious

“I’m writing to you because…”

Not: “I’m writing to you because I’d like to discuss collaboration opportunities.” 

But: “I’d like to discuss collaboration opportunities.”

“…to notify you that…” 

Not: “This email is to notify you that your payment has been received.”

But: “Your payment has been received.”

“As you know…”

Not: “As you know, the market is in decline.”

But: “The market is in decline.”

If you’d like to learn the art of being concise—without being rude—join our online courses or contact us for help.