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7 Tips for Writing Like Warren Buffett

I’m willing to bet you that half of Warren Buffet’s success is due his effective communication (most of his other half is his sustained focus (i.e. his singular focus on creating wealth over 60 years!).

If you don’t believe me, you should read his annual reports or watch video of him on CNBC and YouTube.

I wonder if one of the reasons I like Warren’s Plain English style is that we’re the same personality type (ISTJ).

Warren Buffett: A Master of Plain English

Some people, including me, refer to his communication style as “Plain English.”

Here are seven tips for using the plain english style of writing used by Warren Buffett, Mark Twain and others:

Seven Tips for Writing Like Warren Buffett (Plain English)

#1: Personal Pronouns

Focus on the first-person plural (we, us, our/ours) and second person singular (you and yours). The purpose is it’s more direct, more conversational and avoids the he/she dilemma.

For example:

(Before/Poor) — “This article will enlighten readers and contribute to people’s success versus.”

(After/Better)– “I will enlighten you in this article and contribute to your success.”

#2: No Weak Verbs!

Steer clear of verbs such as “to be” and “to have.” They are weak!

Take the following sentence for example:

(Before/Poor) — “We will make a distribution of cash to every person in the company if our business is ever sold.”

(After/Better) — “We will distribute cash to everyone in our company if we are sold”

Hint: nouns that usually end in “ion” can be replaced with a more powerful verb (in that case, “Will distribute” replaced “will make a distribution”).

#3: Write in the Positive

Use “unable” instead of “not able” and “exclude” instead of “not include,” etc. — This is shorter and more clear.

#4: Active Voice (Instead of Passive Voice)

Try to use active (as opposed to passive) voice and go in order of Subject, Verb and Object. For example:

(Before/Poor) — “The product is bought by the customer”

(After/Better) — “The customer buys the product.”

#5: Avoid Superfluous Words

Try to avoid words that don’t add much value such as “in order to” (use “to”) and “Despite the fact that” (use “Although”).

Why?  Readers understand sentences in the active voice more quickly and easily because it follows how we think and process information

#6: Communicating to a Group

When communicating, you should know your audience…that’s basic, but if you’re communicating to a number of people try to write with a certain person in mind.

For example, in this article I try to envision writing to Lakshmi, a department head of a medium-sized business I know.

When I’m writing about something technical, I write with my Mom in mind.

#7: Avoid Contract Language

Steer clear of “Contract-type” language with definitions — this is the opposite of Plain English.

The best book on the subject of Plain English is How to write, speak and think more effectively by Rudolf Flesch.

And then there are Warren Buffett’s famous annual reports.

Plain English, Please!