You may have noticed how many of our writing objectives start with “C,” such as clarity, correctness, conciseness, consistency, and creativity. We can even add credibility and confidence, the outgrowth of continual improvement in mastering those goals.

But have you ever thought about all the “P” words that play a pivotal part in our writing effectiveness? Here are a few:

Precise. Previous posts (e.g., and have focused on the priority of making sure our language isn’t generic. Was a colleague’s comment “great” or maybe “incisive,” “diplomatic,” or “gutsy”? Are we extolling a “tremendous” client or one that’s unusually “loyal,” “flexible,” or “fast-growing”?

Using language more precisely markedly lifts the quality of our communications while making writing more fulfilling.

Pointed. Outstanding examples of the power of highly focused writing can be found daily in our email subject lines. Which of these conveys the most? “Conference.” “Conference problem.” “Need new conference speaker.” With the last subject line we’ve helped the recipient prioritize our email, and we can accelerate the message portion by immediately explaining why the speaker needed to cancel or suggesting a replacement. What would have required an entire sentence has already appeared in short form in the subject line.

Identifying the essence of what we want to say and expressing it right away enhances clarity and leads to briefer messages.

Patient. Deferring immediate gratification by taking a few minutes to plan our message winds up being highly efficient. As noted, a carefully composed subject line saves us time in the end. And when we are dealing with a complex document, taking a few minutes to organize the elements – on paper or on our computer screen – yields more coherent messages while reducing all that cutting and pasting.

Professional and Personable. Whether we are composing an email, memo, report, or proposal, we generally want our tone to be friendlier and more natural than the writing in a textbook – and more polished than the writing in a text message. We don’t want to bore our readers with stuffy language, and we don’t want to distract them with silly errors or the wrong tone.


Nest week, we’ll cap this topic with a few more P-words in another painstakingly prepared post.

In addition to presenting workshops on writing in the workplace, Norm is a writer, editor, and writing coach. His 100+ Instant Writing Tips is a brief “non-textbook” to help individuals overcome common writing errors and write with more finesse and impact. Learn more at  

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