Maths, also a formula to clear writing

Before you re-arrange the alphabet, first work out the arithmetic. Writing well – so your intended readers understand clearly what you say and what you mean in your emails, tweets, news releases, articles and business reports – requires a clear and defined process. Just like maths.

How so?

Writing, solving word problems, in other words, is like any form of reasonable argument. Which is itself no different from a balanced mathematical equation.

Both start with factual information that is either provided or available. You precis the information into a summary using any of 26 letters and a variety of symbols (aka punctuation) and there you have it: the basics of sane, sensible writing. And, of course, the piece must conclude with nothing more or less than a conclusion that shows clearly just how reasonable was the original argument.

This doesn’t work for fiction quite as well, of course, but if your business writing is fiction, sometimes also called creative writing, what’s it doing here? Go write a novel or sitcom instead of a project report and see how that works out in the boardroom.

To change the content of your writing from adequate to good needs the writer to get the facts right and present them simply and with brevity. Winston, not only one of our greatest leaders but also a first-class writer, demanded succinct notes and memos from his generals and advisers to save his time and theirs. In 1940, while the RAF (one hundred years old this year) was kicking the Luftwaffe all over the Kent sky, he sent the following note to his staff:

Follow his suggestions – and mine about factual accuracy – and you will craft an equation of beautifully written balance.

Whatever you write using these principles will add value to wherever your words are published: on your website, in company reports, inter-company memos and other communications. They will get you noticed by powers above and below.

And if none of this works for you, find a writing tutor instead.