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Creating Successful Leaders

Just as any good writer must know the subject they’re writing about, a good leader must be able to communicate well, and this includes strong writing.

You don’t need to become a novelist to write well. Whether it is an e-mail, memo, initiative, or presentation, good business writing follows these principles: clarity, succinctness and authenticity. Here are some quick and easy tips to help you write in this manner.

Write Short Sentences That Mean What They Say

Limit sentences to one idea each, only at first. It’s actually pretty hard to write a short sentence that is both clear and to the point. We tend to add words over weak sentences in an attempt to make them more professional sounding, but this usually backfires and makes us sound like we’re trying too hard. As New York Times editor Verlyn Klinkenborg puts it:

“It’s perfectly possible to make wretched short sentences. But it’s hard to go on making them because they sound so wretched and because it’s easy to fix them. Making them longer is not the way to fix them.”

You won’t need lots of big words if the core of your sentence has a strong idea. Once you feel comfortable with short and sweet, you can begin fleshing out your sentences. But only use words you know…

Use Words You Know

I encourage people to use strong action verbs on their resumes. These are words that follow the first two of our three writing principles in that they describe specific actions (clarity) with a single word (succinctness).  You may be thinking, wait, wasn’t I just told to avoid big words? Well, yes and no.

If you can use action verbs appropriately, then please use them and use them often! The trouble comes with those who use words in ways that do not make sense.

If you aren’t sure about a word, don’t use it until you look it up. Be sure to read examples of it used in a sentence.

Write In Your Own Voice

I think many miss the point that writing is an extension of our communication toolkit, and therefore an extension of ourselves. This may be due to negative experiences in school, where it seemed as if all the writing rules smothered a person’s unique voice.

Well, I’m telling you now that writing should always reflect a part of you. You must always be authentic with your words. Don’t betray yourself to big words you do not mean or big ideas you do not believe. Write what you know and what you believe. Disingenuous writing isn’t convincing and hinders real communication within an organization.

In this way, writing can be pretty empowering. You get to share your views in your unique way.

For more specific writing advice, check out my posts on resumes and cover letters.


Klinkenborg, Verlyn. Several Short Sentences about Writing. New York: Vintage Books, 2013, page 11.


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