In my first job as a qualified accountant I learned most of what I had to do from the files left by my predecessor. This included numerous reports and standard letters that I copied in terms of style and content. It meant that I would write sentences like:
“I would be grateful to receive your remittance at your earliest convenience.”
It’s awful, isn’t it?
“Please pay by [date]” is much shorter, and much more understandable. It is more effective because it sets a clear deadline for action rather than the vagueness of the receiver’s convenience.
But the worst thing is that everything was over-written in this way. We were accountants and of course that meant we knew a language most people did not. We were also working in government and, at least back then, there was a tendency for communication with the public to be unnecessarily formal.
No-one was looking to use plain language.
These days, there is no excuse. After you write something — especially something for a non-accountant — check the language for jargon and long words and take them out.
Here are some examples of terms to avoid:
- collaborate, use ‘work with’
- deliver, use ‘make’, ‘create’, ‘provide’ or a more specific term instead
- going/moving forward, use ‘from now on’ or ‘in the future’ (it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions)
- in order to, is usually not needed so don’t use it
- leverage (unless in the financial sense), use ‘influence’ or ‘use’
- transform, describe what you’re doing to change the thing
- utilise, use ‘use’.