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Last updated on 2/11/20

Employ a suitable vocabulary

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Once the reasoning has been set out, you need to employ suitable language in your writing.

Use a suitable language register

Adapt your style

In general, you should observe several simple rules of style:

  • Use short sentences of about 15 words;

  • Give preference to active rather than passive forms of expression (e.g. “I finished the document” rather than “The document was finished by me”);

  • Avoid redundancy and repetition;

  • Use a new paragraph for each idea;

  • Be concise;

  • Be polite.

Try to simplify your style as much as possible. Don’t hesitate to split sentences that are too long. For example, get rid of complex structures such as “insofar as” to avoid errors and to avoid excessive formality. The recipient will appreciate concise, easy to read documents more than complex structures that add no real value.

✗ Insofar as the document was not sent within the given time limits, the HR Department cannot take your form into account, as that would not be fair to the other employees.

✓ Your document was not sent within the given time limits. Therefore, the HR Department cannot take your form into account. That would not be fair to the other employees.

Use linking words

Don’t hesitate to use linking words, which allow your reader to understand the structure of your text better. Here are some examples:

To give an example

for example or e.g.

To give an explanation

in fact, indeed, as

To oppose an idea

nonetheless, however, but, on the contrary

To develop an argument

thus, in fact 

To conclude

thus, finally, therefore, consequently

To add an idea

also, moreover 

Implement simple procedures to soften your tone

In professional life, you often need to send messages that are negative or not very pleasant. Here are a few procedures that will allow you to give information while employing a softer tone. 😉

Use of the passive voice

We have just seen that the active voice is easier to read than the passive voice. Nonetheless, if you wish to soften your tone, you can use the passive voice.

"Peter made a mistake in the VAT file, but he corrected it in a second version.” Here, the negative element is emphasised: the error.

“The error in the VAT file was corrected by Peter in a second version.” Here, the positive element is emphasised: the correction.

Use of the conditional voice

“We want a reply by 12th February.”  

“We would like a reply by 12th February.”

Using an adverb

“You don’t agree with the Department’s position." 

“You don’t altogether agree with the Department’s position.”

Use of the interrogative form

“We want the documents by 12th February.” 

“Could you please send us the documents by 12th February.”

The use of words that have a positive connotation

“Your analysis is wrong.” 

“Your analysis is not quite right.” 

Use the right closing formula

The closing formula, i.e. the written formula that serves to end a text politely, needs to send a message that suits your goal and your recipient. That is why you should avoid having a prewritten formula for signing off your email, as this will not fit all situations.

Here are some typical examples:

  • You are expecting your reader to take some action: “Thanking you in advance”.

  • You want to be sure that your reader has understood your message: “Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.”

  • You want to convey a friendly impression (e.g. to soften a rather brusque email): “Best wishes,” “All the best,” “Kind regards”. These formulas are friendly, while remaining professional. However, take care with the closing formula: "See you soon” or “Have a nice weekend” may appear too familiar. Do not use them unless you know your colleague well!

In a letter, opt for the following formulas:

“Yours faithfully,”
“Yours sincerely,”
“Hoping to hear from you soon. Yours sincerely”.

You will note that the first two closing formulas are neutral. The third allows you to emphasise the fact that you expect a reply from your reader. Choose the most useful formula for the context.

You now know how to employ a suitable vocabulary. Next, you must select a format and adapt it to your needs.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement