How can you be more concrete

Concreteness is crucial to good writing. The rest of the chapter looks at these three ways to be more concrete:

• Make comparisons.

Use quick examples

A quick example is normally fairly short—from a word to a couple of sentences. Here are three:

As a loan officer, I will not hesitate to hold up an application of a member whose salary I question. For example, I would be suspicious of someone who is eighteen and makes $50,000.

I am responsible for making sure the computer system is running smoothly every day. If there are any problems— such as a database running out of space—I am called to fix it.

We answer over 100 questions a day from federal employees about our program to offer them incentives to resign. For example, employees often call to find out if they are eligible. We received one call from a wife whose husband had taken the buyout. She had put up with him at home for a week and had had enough. She wanted his agency to take him back!

Lists are another good place for quick examples. For instance, auditors try to find out whether things are going well within an organization. If they find something wrong, that something is a "finding." This list tells auditors what a report of a finding should cover:

These are the five elements of a finding you must cover in your report:

1. condition

2. cause

3. criteria

4. effect

5. recommendation

Abstract. Now for the concrete. Let's put in some quick examples:

These are the five elements of a finding you must cover in your report:

1. Condition. Example: The nurses don't record the medicine they give their patients.

2. Cause. Example: The nursing staff is 42% short of people, leaving little time for nurses to both give the medicine and record that they've given it.

3. Criteria. Example: Hospital Regulation 213.4 says that whoever gives medicine must record that fact.

4. Effect. Example: Patients could die or have worsened conditions if they receive too much or too little medicine.

5. Recommendation. Example: Counsel all nurses and require supervisors to monitor the records.

You certainly noticed that the concrete version is longer. That's true. But longer is not necessarily worse. The real issue is, "Which version communicates more efficiently to the reader?" Sometimes more writing is better than less.

You may wonder when you should use quick examples. The answer: whenever your reader won't understand the abstract version alone. Professional writers use them frequently.

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    What is concrete business writing?
    8 years ago

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