Shorter, simpler, better

Why do we write words that we don’t use when we speak?

Think about these:

Prior to
Approximately
In addition
However
Purchase
Facilitate
Utilise

Do you use them when you’re talking? Probably not.

But do you use them when you write? Probably.

Why do we do this? Is it out of insecurity and the fear of not sounding professional enough? Do we think people will suddenly start taking us seriously if we choose a bigger word rather than a smaller one? And do we really think that writing has to be different from speaking?

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make for easy reading and it puts a barrier up between you and your reader.

That list could just as well have been:

Before
About
And
But
Buy
Help
Use

So next time you find yourself writing something – an email, an award submission, a bid, a project description – keep an eye on what your brain is doing. If it’s coming out with ‘prior to’ rather than ‘before’, just tell it to relax. This is about being clear and being natural. It’s not about trying to sound like someone you’re not, and your writing will be all the better for it.