My job requires formal writing, however after self-review, I found that my writing does not have enough substance. This was confirmed as feedback from higher-ups implied that I use too many phrasal verbs or have a tendency to over-write things using unnecessarily lofty words.
I was recommended to read this essay by Orwell:
Basically, he cautions against the abuse of:
- Operators/verbal false limbs
- Pretentious diction
- Meaningless words
And advises to:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Though the piece was overly political for my taste, but I still found the notion that "The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness" very compelling. Here is a great example of what he means by "concrete":
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Modern English version:
Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.
In a few months time, after making a conscious effort to elevate my "concreteness," I feel more confident with my writing and I received positive feedback. I think about prose so differently now. It amazes me that such a short piece made such a large impact on my writing.
Can someone recommend a commercially available writing guide / book that has a similar framework?