Mistakes are so common in business writing that I don’t have to look for mistakes to share as teaching moments. They pop up all over!

For this week’s lesson in business writing, here’s yet another real-life example that’s confusing as currently written:

“The numbers to fix the nation’s crumbling and outdated roads and bridges is staggering, billions is overly optimistic, it seems trillions is more accurate.”

This was obviously written in a hurry. As a result, it has punctuation errors, but is also poorly written. “Numbers” isn’t clear, it has too many “ands,” the word “outdated” is implied so not necessary, and “overly” before “optimistic” seems unnecessary as well.

Plus, the more time I spend with this, the more I realize that there’s no point in saying “billions” because the sentence has more impact when we jump straight to the much larger number of trillions, like this:

“The dollars required to fix the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges is staggering: It will probably cost trillions.”

I don’t like the word “dollars,” but I am trying to stay somewhat true to the writer’s original intent.

TBH, however, this sentence reads best as:

“It will probably cost trillions of dollars to fix the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges.”

Was that a helpful exercise? I hope so! Because clarity counts! So remember to read what you write out loud!

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.