Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Rambling in Writing

    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Rambling is fun sometimes. It can be relaxing to spend a day ambling aimlessly over hill and dale. But when you let your writing ramble, you risk losing the reader - and business. Here are some ways to avoid rambling sentences that confuse or bore.

    • Read your own writing. When you finish writing a piece, read it yourself - preferably out loud. If you have to take a breath in the middle of a sentence, the sentence is probably too long.
    • Count the words. Yes, we mean actually count them. First scan the piece, and if you spy a sentence that is more than two lines long, count the words. If you have more than 20 words in a sentence, shorten it.
    • Divide and conquer. As you read each sentence, ask yourself what the main point is. Each sentence should contain only one main point, and if you find more than one, divide the sentence accordingly.
    • Chuck the conjunctions. If you have a plethora of conjunctions in a sentence, divide it. This includes coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but) and subordinating conjunctions (because, although, when, and so on). Be wary, too, of relative pronouns such as who, which, and that. These introduce clauses that can bloat a sentence if you're not careful.
    • Pare down the phrases. Is your sentence a maze of commas separating a multitude of modifying phrases? Such intricacy may earn points in a literary contest, but in business writing your goal is to be clear and to the point. Cut, divide, and eliminate extraneous material to make each sentence clean and easily understandable.

    You can learn more about sentences beginning on page 152 in in Write for Business: A Compact Guide to Writing and Communicating in the Workplace, just one of the many helpful business-writing materials from UpWrite Press.

    - Joyce Lee