Stop Trying to Sound Smart When You’re Writing

When I read a piece of business writing, whether it’s a proposal, a report, or a simple email, I’m turned off by people who have invested more energy trying to sound smart than in trying to be smart. Ideally, I’d like to read communications where I don’t notice the writing at all. The best writing is so transparent that it doesn’t obscure the underlying message. You can achieve that in your writing by investing in great content and then stripping away anything that detracts from it.

How do you make your content great? Before crafting a single sentence, you determine the purpose and desired outcome of your communication. You go beyond the facts and information you’re transmitting and push yourself to clarify what you want your audience to think, to feel, and to do after they’ve read your message.


A phenomenal piece of advice. You are not writing for you, especially in an agency setting you are writing to make something happen. The author offers four best practices, all worth considering:


  1. Eliminate fancy-pants words. The ones that Mom used to call 25 cent words which tells you all you need to know about inflation.
  2. Beware of using words incorrectly. No “bigly” please.
  3. Make bulleted lists flow. Parallel construction, consistent tense. 
  4. Use an active voice. A little tricky but you can learn and there are some examples to get you going.