Real Words that Work

By Patricia Davies, President, Patricia Davies Communications
Hard Truths (2): Writing short is a long exercise
When the almost incomprehensible email arrived in my inbox I was first puzzled, then angry. It was from the chair of a volunteer committee I was serving on, and it rambled on, stream-of-consciousness style, for two screens of directions and projects, pros, cons and requests for updates. After attempting to disentangle it for about 40 minutes I picked up the phone. Yes, she said, she had thrown it together quickly to get it off her desk. Could I send a short email summarizing my specific questions? I vowed never to work with her on a committee again (and I haven’t). 
You might think you are saving time by tossing off a quick note with a jumbled series of ideas and instructions, but you are really entering the land of unintended consequences. Readers react strongly to blather and tend to get hostile. The reason? You’re asking them to do your work of communicating clearly and concisely. And you will spend many unintended hours clarifying your words and rescuing relationships. 
Remember the quote variously attributed to French philosopher Blaise Pascal or George Bernard Shaw. “I would have written a shorter letter if I’d had the time.” The hard work of writing happens after the first unformed scribbles when you focus and hone your original thoughts. 
GPS (Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling) Tips 
In response to reader requests, this column will occasionally include hints on grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS). 
As promised in the last issue, here are more words that are commonly misspelled: 
received, referred, privileges, likable, coincidence, deductible, acknowledgment, guarantee, irrelevant, achievement, commitment and guarantee. 

Patricia Davies is an award-winning writer and editor, an Endorsed Education Provider with IIBA®, and a regular panelist on the IIBA “Being a BA: Effective Communication” Webinar. Do you have a writing question? Please email to and we’ll try to address it in a future column or webinar.