Why bad business writing is like a cheap sandwich

This entry was posted on Monday, June 15th, 2009 at 1:16 PM

It’s lunchtime on a lovely sunny summer’s day.  You’ve taken your sandwich to the park and you sit down to enjoy it. You take your first bite.  Disappointment follows very quickly.

Instead of being packed with big chunks of avocado, as the packaging promised, it’s stuffed with flavourless, boring ingredients that bulk it out.  Things like limp lettuce, pointless mustard and cress, watery mayo, and soggy tomatoes.  And hidden away somewhere in that lot is just a teeny tiny hint of avocado. 

And that’s like bad business writing although, unlike our sandwich, it probably wouldn’t even tempt you in the first place. 


There’s little to draw you in.  When you do make the effort there’s too much pointless waffle and not enough of the interesting stuff. 

It doesn’t get to the point. Sentences are stuffed with unnecessary words and phrases, or adjectives that don’t add anything useful. The message is lost somewhere in paragraph three – a destination the reader is unlikely to reach. 

So here are some tips to tempt your reader, keep their interest, and avoid soggy sandwich syndrome:


Purchase – buy

Vendor – seller

Terminate – end

Facilitate – make easy, enable

Utilise – use

Assist – help

Requirement – need

You get the picture. 

Avoid redundant words – things like this:

Foreign imports – imports are foreign.

Joint agreement – an agreement is something between two or more people, so joint is unnecessary.

Disappear from sight – disappear will do just fine.

Give advance notice – to give notice implies it’s in advance of something.

Always stay away from jargon – it will alienate your reader. And you really don’t want to do that.

Finally, keep it nice and short.

Mmm. All that talk of tangy cheddar has made me peckish.  Time to raid the fridge I think.

Expect the unexpected and avoid mistakes | A few little words – why straplines matter

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful. And speaking of useful - scroll down and take a look at the Oxford Dictionaries tool.

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