Advanced Business Writing
Style and Sophistication

Balance

Plain English is a wonderful thing. It's a stick we can use to beat down bureaucrats and their officious prose. But a harsh adherence to plain words and brevity can itself become officious. There is room, and reason, for art in your writing at work.

In your longer sentences, you can creatively use balance to please your readers.

Balance in structure

Let's start with a long sentence that is not quite balanced:

That change in the policy, requiring such early approval of vacation days, will make it difficult for management to be surprised by temporary changes in staffing levels and employees to respond to unexpected family commitments.

To see the imbalance, it can help to visualize the parts:

That change in the policy, requiring such early approval of vacation days, will make it difficult for

    management to be surprised by temporary changes in staffing levels

        and

    employees to respond to unexpected family commitments.

Note: Laying out text like this is easy to do in any word-processing application. Be sophisticated—give it a try.

Three things can be done to improve balance:

(1) Add a matching preposition. (underlined)
(2) Match the format of topics (bold).
(3) Match the format of objects (italics).

That change in the policy, requiring such early approval of vacation days, will make it difficult

    for managers to be surprised by temporary changes in staffing levels

        and

    for employees to be responsive to unexpected family commitments.

The result is a verbal balance that pleases the mind's ear while reading the sentence.

Note: Because the preferred format for sentences is S~V~O~i, most of this editing for balance will take place inside the detailed informational endings of long sentences.

Balance in rhythm

We can always go that extra step and choose words and phrases to match cadence and sounds:

That change in the policy, requiring such early approval of vacation days, will make it difficult

    for managers to be surprised when seeing reduced staffing levels

        and

    for employees to be authorized when needing unexpected time off.

matching cadence: to be X-ed when Y-ing Z

matching sounds: surprised, authorized

When you write long sentences with balance, you invite the reader to enjoy reading a sophisticated sentence. They will think you consider them worthy of the extra effort to make sentences sing for their benefit, to make ideas stand out and shine for their edification.

Lesson: Balance
Module: Style and Sophistication
Course: Advanced Business Writing