The Biggest Pet Peeve at Work

Practice this skill, and your coworkers will love you.

I received a confusing email today:

“I wanted to give you a heads up about a webpage that will need to be created in the next week in preparation for the upcoming awards ceremony.”

I read that several times before I fully understood what he needed me to do.

Maybe my morning caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet, or maybe I’m just slow. But I think he should clarify his sentence’s meaning.

Let’s break up the parts of that sentence using Richard A. Lanham’s “Paramedic Method“:

  • I wanted…
  • to give you a heads up…
  • about a webpage…
  • that will need…
  • to be created…
  • in the next week…
  • in preparation…
  • for the upcoming awards ceremony

Do you feel a little out of breath after reading that? I sure do.

Let’s take another pass at it:

“I need a webpage created for next week’s awards ceremony.”

Much simpler, right?

In the professional world, simplicity is king. Those who can communicate well are well-liked by coworkers, seen as leaders by management, and first in line for promotions.

Those who can’t communicate stay at the bottom.

English majors, unfortunately, too often equate intelligence with verbosity. Long and complicated do not equal smart. Brevity, simplicity, and clarity are what indicate intelligence – at least in a professional setting.

PS: The best lesson I’ve ever had on writing clearly came from a video called “Revising Prose” produced at UCLA by Richard A. Lanham. The DVD itself is $75 on Amazon – too expensive for students – but your school library might have a copy (or be able to get one through interlibrary loan).

PPS: Worried your writing is too complicated? Check out this great tool that helps simplify your writing.