Emily’s question: “My pet peeve is people who put words such as however, in addition, or therefore at the beginning of their sentences. We are told to write concisely but this is not concise writing. I think these words should be deleted.
BizWritingTip response: One of my concerns is that sometimes when people try to write concisely they come across as curt.
The words you are referring to are called connecting words. When used at the beginning of a sentence, they serve two purposes.
First, they help people read faster. They act as subconscious reading instructions telling people how the thoughts in the document fit together. They say whether the next sentence continues the thought of the previous sentence (also, moreover, in addition, and), reverses the thought (however, but), or explains the thought (for instance, for example, in other words).
Second, they soften the tone so the message does not seem abrupt.
Example (original — without a connecting word)
Yes, you are right that we should make it a practice when writing in the business world to remove unnecessary words. The words you are referring to are connecting words, and they help readers get the message faster.
Example (revised — with a connecting word)
Yes, you are right that we should make it a practice when writing in the business world to remove unnecessary words. However, the words you are referring to are connecting words, and they help readers get the message faster and soften the tone.
I have found documents that are easy to read and to understand usually contain a number of connecting words.
Note: In terms of punctuation, whenever the connecting word is two syllables or more — or is a number — you must put a comma after it.
There are three reasons for our decision. First, we need to …
I have booked the rooms for the conference and chosen the menus for the meals. In addition, the packages to the guest speakers have been sent out.