Last month, I penned a white paper on financial technology innovation for my office, where I’m an internal research and strategy analyst for a large asset management company. Not having written a long business paper in a few years, my eyes focused on a back-page ad in the Harvard Business Review issue I was about to recycle after a flight to San Francisco. The ad featured the “HBR Guide to Better Business Writing,” published in 2012. It has three tenets listed on its front cover:
1) “Engage readers,”
2) “Tighten and brighten,” and
3) “Make your case.”
When I returned to my draft I tried to apply these tenets. “Tighten and brighten” particularly appealed to me; what a crisp and blithe way to describe writing both concisely and colorfully with engaging language! This tenet is great advice for professional writing, which is critical for career success. Good business writing gets your ideas and arguments heard and understood. As the guide says, “Good writing gets ideas noticed.”
Skilled writing is not only helpful for formal business documents like research reports or memos. It is also helpful for informal business communication, including email. Learning to write concisely and with sharp, clear, and alluring language that retains attention and illustrates ideas is valuable across the board.
But why stop there?
What else can we “tighten and brighten” in our daily lives that can add focus, depth, and enjoyment to an experience?
Can we “tighten and brighten” our phone conversations and meals with family and friends by discussing meaningful news, ideas, and problems, rather than gossip or summaries of quotidian workweeks? Can we “tighten and brighten” our Sundays by setting aside time to explore a new neighborhood, read an interesting book, see a new friend, or view a mind-opening exhibit? Can we “tighten and brighten” our life vision and goals to give them purpose, focus, and more excitement, so that we don’t drift passively through experiences and choices? Can we “tighten and brighten” a morning run, or a date? The approach can be applied beyond business writing to enrich our lives on many levels.
On that note, I hope I’ve kept it tight and bright, and remember, keep working those abs and buns!