The art of modern writing: are you stuck in the past?


Out with the old

Most people were taught that serious writing demands formality and the use of certain stock phrases. Such as:

  • I write with reference to…
  • Please find enclosed…
  • I hereby have the pleasure of…
  • It is with great regret that…

In with the new

Luckily, the world has moved on, away from this kind of formality. These days we can write as we speak. This relaxed freedom can be hard to adjust to. But keep trying.

Contractions in action

At school I was taught to write do not instead of don’t. For some reason, it was thought that contractions were acceptable in speech but not in writing. Thankfully, this has changed. People now accept that it’s weird to speak one language and write another. Most people use contractions in speech, so feel free to use them in business. You have my permission.


Another rule we were taught at school was to avoid repeating words. But, sometimes it’s useful to repeat words, such as when that word is the subject you’re writing about. Your writing will become strained if you struggle to use a different word for the same thing every time you mention it. So feel free to repeat words, particularly if doing so aids understanding.

(Picture courtesy of Laineys Repertoire)


  1. Good points. I’ve referenced this in my blog post today (I couldn’t see a trackback link on this site so wasn’t sure if you’d see it) … I must admit I still use ‘Please find enclosed..’ and ‘please find attached …’ on emails – do you think that’s a bit archaic?
    Your most humble servant, Robin 🙂

    Comment by Robin Houghton — September 17, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  2. Hi Robin,

    No, I don’t think the phrases you mention are necessarily wrong – in many cases they’re the easiest and quickest ways to be understood.
    I think the new, more relaxed way of writing also means we can elect to be archaic.


    Comment by Leif Kendall — September 21, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

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