Writing-Defogging Blog


Friday, April 29th, 2016

Here’s how a letter from a financial institution to a recipient designated only as “Customer,” starts:

“As per our telephone discussion: Listed below are the documents needed by us in order to establish a factoring (funding of your receivables) arrangement with your company.”

But do you ever say “per” out loud, as in “ as per our telephone conversation” or “per your request?”  Never (I hope).

And it makes sense that you should avoid words in your writing that you wouldn’t speak aloud in everyday conversation. The only time you might say “per” is when you’re actually saying “purr” and referring to Donut and Danish, your cats.

So unless you say it out loud, kiss “behooves” goodbye.  The same goes for legal-sounding words such as “herein,” “heretofore,” “thereinto,” and “whereon.”

In addition to those words that are generally recognized as archaic – “mayhap,” “nary,” whencesoever,” etc. – keep away from words that were once popular and then faded such as “cat,” when it’s hipster talk for “man,” or ”groovy.” The same goes for words in common use now that have meant something different before and may mean something different in the future, such as “dude.” (By the way, what’s with “bad” these days?  Does “bad” still mean “good,” or it is back to meaning “bad”?)

You should also avoid writing common business phrases such as “enclosed please find . . . “ You’d never say “enclosed please find” aloud; you’d say “I’ve enclosed,” or something more conversational like “here is.”

Would you say aloud, “I utilize my Blackberry every day?”  No, you’d say “use.”  Would you say, “in accordance with”?  No, you’d probably use “according to.”  And I’d bet you’d choose to say, “Please keep me informed about your decision” over “Please keep me informed as to your decision.”

(If you do say these words aloud, by the way, please consider some training in How to Speak Like a Human Being.)

The issue isn’t “professional” writing versus “personal” writing; it’s all about sounding real, sounding authentic and genuine (unless you’re an attorney or write for one, in which case you’ve learned to communicate in legalese, the goal of which is to not sound real, authentic, and genuine).

If you’re not comfortable saying it aloud, don’t write it.

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