5 Ways to Avoid Pompous Business Writing or “Business-ese”

Have you ever felt like you were drowning in pompous business writing? You know, the kind that stuffs jargon into every sentence, burying simple ideas under big words?

It might sound impressive, yet it builds walls between you and your audience. Leave the robospeak to AI and learn how to speak with your audience one-on-one.

1. Watch your wording – Do you use a “five-dollar” word when a “ten-cent” term will do? Unless it’s appropriate for your audience, drop the formality. Speak in plain English.

Example: utilize
Revised: use

A study found that people see writers who use overly complex language as less intelligent. Simpler terms come across as friendly and approachable. They ease understanding, keeping your readers focused.

2. Trim the fat – Sentences without a period in sight can tire readers’ eyes. Keep them to 16 or fewer words or an eighth-grade reading level.

3. Your subjects matter – Are you writing for busy CEOs who value concise information or recent graduates who need more details? To connect with readers and avoid pompous business writing, step into their shoes. Hang out in forums or social media groups they frequent. Which questions do they ask? Which language do they use?

Which topics are they interested in? How can you explain concepts clearly? Consider surveying them. Anonymous options can encourage open responses.

4. Get feedback – Show your writing to friends or colleagues you trust who know your audience. They can pinpoint language that might go over readers’ heads to help you pitch pompous business writing and sharpen your image.

5. Lighten up – “Never use a big word when a little filthy one will do.” ~ Johnny Carson. Like writing, humor is subjective. Some could find that quote shocking, while others might laugh.

Like a lecture that drones on, bland text, especially the passive voice, puts readers to sleep. Speak to them directly: stop commanding and start chatting with them. If your writing feels as stiff as concrete, as appropriate, soften it with a lighter touch.

For more creative turns of phrase, read 35 Overused Business Words with Alternatives by Cathy Miller.

Which words do you find pompous or stuffy? Feel free to comment below.


Quotes

“Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills, and meaningless jargon.” ~ William Zinsser, On Writing Well

“Boastful or arrogant writing is as repellent as a boastful or arrogant person.” ~Richard Palmer, Write in Style: a Guide to Good English