Tips for Great Business Writing Skills
One of the key elements in business that always has our team arguing is writing skills. Not just the usual stuff like when to use and apostrophe and when not to, punctuation in general, grammar and spelling but also such things as general content and writing for the right audience.
Many questions arise in terms of language too such as, what is appropriate to use and when is it appropriate to use it? How do we use emails? What to put into a proposal documents, websites and marketing materials? What is too much and what is too little?
All of the above and much more have been discussed late into the night (metaphorically). So we tried to come to some degree of consensus on what we all thought were some of the most valid elements of good writing skills that we all felt worth sharing. I suppose they could be viewed as a kind of guide to the ‘dos and don’ts of good writing. So here goes with our hints and tips session. We hope that you can use some of this in your communications both internally and externally.
The first thing we thought was vital was to know your audience. In other words write with your potential reader in mind. There is nothing worse than receiving a note from someone in a technical department which is full of jargon, abbreviations and technical terminology that is meaningless and confusing unless you have a degree in mechanical engineering. Keep it user friendly for the person receiving it.
Spell checkers and tools like Grammarly are great but you might also want to trust what you know too. Whether we like it or not, Americanisms slip through the net even if you set your keyboard or spell checker to UK English, so be careful what you trust and read any piece thoroughly before you send it out. You may wish to ‘organise’ transport for your customer rather than ‘organize’ it.
It is often said that sarcasm doesn’t travel well in print. We agree, so it is to be avoided if possible. Also humour is so subjective that the other person may not get your quip or witty remark, especially as they can’t see the twinkle in your eye and cheeky look on your face when they read it. They don’t have the benefit of the tone, pitch and the pace of your voice. So you need to be sure if you put something into a message that you think is funny (especially dry humour) that it doesn’t simply come across as harsh or just plain mean.
Unlike many of the blogs you read on this site (which need to expand on a subject) you could try keeping your writing succinct and to the point. We’d like to think that even though the subject of our blogs are expanded upon that the content is still useful and appropriate though. What we are referring to is the unnecessary use of language to a point where it really grates to have to read it as the writer has used 150 words when 25 would have done.
The same applies for extraneous or superfluous language (what did I just say about attempting humour!) in your writing. I once received an email from someone who described themselves as ‘adjunct to the controlling project manager on this conspicuous and current assignment’. I had to read it twice before I realised that he was helping his line manager with the job in hand!
With that in mind it is worth settling on an appropriate tone for your writing. With a new client or supplier you may have to think about being a little more formal. Certainly more than you would for, say, an internal email to a colleague who you have worked with for the last five years. Just be aware that as your relationship develops you can soften the tone a little and become more relaxed and informal.
Also don’t be afraid to ask your recipient to do something if you feel that it is important to do so. You may need a call to action in your message to be able to move to the next stage of a project or request that something be sent to you or a colleague before an order can be processed for example.
It goes without saying that care has to be taken to ensure your writing is accurate and not offensive. Always read what you have written and ask someone else to read it to if it is appropriate. It is easier than you think to put a word, line or sentence into a note, letter or message that is inadvertently hurtful or offensive. Even worse you could be racist, inflammatory or discriminatory in some way without realising it. So it pays to have your writing sense checked by someone else before you send or publish it.
That said, if you do happen write a masterpiece, which could be a complaint to an organisation, a response to a client, a sales letter or proposal then keep it and use it as a template for future writing in similar circumstances. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel every time you need to send something similar out. You can, with all good conscience, use the same piece and edit the content as you see fit. That is a good use of time as well as making perfect use of your previous creativity.
Keep a degree of structure to your writing. For example, if you are recounting a tale of woe about your recent car service or goods supplied to you and how it all went wrong, well as least try to have a beginning, middle and end to the story. If you need to divide the piece into sections then do so if it makes it more easily understood.
Finally remember, one of the sweetest sounds we can hear is our own name being used with a tone of respect and admiration, the same applies to your writing. Starting emails with ‘hello’ or ‘Hi’ or ‘Morning’ doesn’t really do much for personalising it. Even worse, addressing the email, letter proposal as Dear Mrs when the person in question is a Miss for example is really unforgiveable. The same applies for job titles; people have worked hard to reach a level of authority and being addressed as the Production Manager when your subject is in fact the Production Director is careless and disrespectful. It also suggests that you haven’t done your homework, so take care with gender and job titles, they are important.
Here at Maguire Training we have classroom based courses and programmes that can help with improving your business writing skills. We are also proud to offer a versatile and intuitive suite of over a hundred e-learning modules on our website which covers a range of communication based topics. Have a look at the module ‘Writing Sales Proposals’ which would be a perfect complement to the classroom based writing skills courses.
If you need further information then you could always call us of course on 0333 5777 144 for a no obligation discussion about your training requirements. Alternatively, simply hit the ‘Contact Us’ on any page of our website at www.maguiretraining.co.uk and we’ll get right back to you.
Either way it would be great to hear from you.