Do You Need to Improve Your Business Writing? Here’s How!
Survey after survey of U.S. businesses cite written communication as their employees’ biggest skill problem.
But, while many professionals’ writing skills aren’t up-to-speed, the need for solid written communication is stronger than ever. In fact, most top executives say that effective business writing is the skill most needed for professional recognition and success!
Writing may not come naturally for you, but there are tips and techniques to get words flowing freely with a lot less effort and aggravation. The true mark of strong business writing is that it gets the results you want. Clear, concise, compelling writing is key to achieving your aim.
Take time to plan
You may be thinking at this moment: I don’t have time to plan. I need to get this out now. The fact is, planning what to write saves you time. That’s because you have uppermost in your mind your purpose in writing, who your audience is, what action you want to stimulate, which tone is appropriate, the points you need to make to convey your message and the order you need to make them in.
Know your reader
You must know at least enough about your reader or your reader’s needs to write a subject line, title or first paragraph that will grab THAT reader. Remember: You are in competition with every other person who sent your reader mail today. It is doubtful that your reader will read all of it—let’s make sure he or she reads at least YOURS.
- Emphasize at the beginning and the end
- Keep all parts that describe something in a sentence as close as possible to that something
- Make sure language agrees in number and reference
- Limit phrases and clauses to no more than three for complex content and four for simple content
- Be consistent in style and content
Ditch the cliches
Letter writing has a long history, and with the passing of time, certain phrases have come to be used over and over again. These well-worn wordings are known as clichés (from a French word meaning “copied”).
Why do we use them? Because they’re familiar. They come to mind more easily than original thoughts when we’re faced with a writing task. Are they useful? Only if you really want to sound dry and old-fashioned. For a fresh, personal style, you should try to replace clichés with phrases of your own.
Edit, edit, edit
Editing means making what you said as clear as possible to your readers. It means finding the most effective structure and words and throwing away the rest. If you have to make introductions or transitions, you have things in the wrong order. If you retain words that aren’t essential, you sap your reader’s strength. Every word you eliminate keeps your reader with you for one more sentence.
Make it look good
While the recipient can’t visually see YOU when reading a written communication, he or she CAN see the actual documentation. This means the “visual” percentage could now be based on your grammatical usage or command of the English language, spelling, punctuation or even the formatting of the document. Fifty-five percent of the recipient’s belief is based on the VISUAL interpretation.