Tip of the Week: Business Writing 101
- August 9, 2016
Write effectively and clearly with these guidelines.
From memos, emails to even presentations, writing is an essential aspect of every business. As formal channels of communication, using words to state our intentions may prove tricky, even if for the simplest errands.
We might have tasks or ideas waiting to be expressed, but we often spend ages trying to convey them the right way. For instance, is this sentence too casual to include in the text? Or, is that description detailed enough for others to follow?
Granted, having a sense of professionalism on paper is expected, but is your ‘corporate’ tone affecting the way your receivers perceive and understand? Here are some guidelines on business-style writing that will help you get your point across without it getting lost in translation.
Dump Business Jargon from Your Vocabulary.
‘Leverage’, ‘synergy’, ‘incentivise’, or even, ‘paradigm shift’; You might come across these phrases in a company report, or a business interview. They may sound impressive on paper, but let’s be honest, a lot of us don’t know what those words actually mean.
Also known as bizspeak, people have a tendency towards these generic buzzwords because it makes us look educated, formal and relevant. Yet, if anything, using such complicated language only highlights the lack of sensitivity and knowledge of the writer.
Especially for those not well versed in industry lingo, valuable time wouldbe wasted on trying to decipher words. In addition, relying on these cliche expressions dilutes the clarity of the message, defeating the purpose of writing.
No one enjoys looking like an uneducated fool for being kept out of the loop. Spare your readers from feelings of inadequacy and frustration by avoiding business jargon altogether. That also includes the use of acronyms. Instead, replace them with simpler counterparts; For example, rather than ‘synergy’, words like ‘teamwork’ or ‘unity’ are better understood.
Lose the Stuffy, Impersonal Language
What we’ve learnt in school about organisational etiquette still holds true; It is always better to err on the side of caution when communicating professionally. Of course, writing in a formal manner won’t lead to any backlash about impropriety, but is it always the best way to connect from a business perspective?
Unfortunately, writing ‘proper’ might not rub well on your readers. According to Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author of Social Intelligence, people tend to see neutral messages as negative. In particular, computer mediated communications, such as emails suffer from this phenomenon. This is due to a lack of emotional cues, such as the facial expressions, nonverbal cues or verbal tone.
Though you might have thought that memo you sent to your colleague was perfectly appropriate, he/she might have read it as ‘cold’ or ‘demanding’. To prevent such issues, it’s important to bring formalities down a notch, especially when writing content directed at a person. Lose the stuffy language, like using the ‘precedent’ or the ‘individual’ to refer to the reader. Instead, write as if conversing to a person face-to-face, and emphasise on active language (eg. Jane will oversee the event) rather than passive (eg. The event will be overseen by Jane). Not only does it sound more personable, it is actually easier to digest.
Also, it never hurts to include some niceties in your message. It shows that you care about leaving a positive impression, even if (based on the aforementioned theory) it may seem neutral to the reader. For example in emails, including a ‘thank you’, ‘have a nice day’ or ‘hope you’re doing well’ goes a long way in making a reader feel cared for.
Be Specific and Purposeful
Finally, in the corporate world, it pays have a clear mindset about what you want to achieve. With so many work related tasks to juggle day to day, writing only happens when we need to. Be it seeking information, discussing projects or answering requests, practical planning is essential in for any business-related content.
Structuring what to write firstly involves defining the end-goal of the message; Is it out to persuade, make an enquiry, or to inform readers? Following on, you must also determine who your audiences are, finding out what interests them, including any differences or restrictions.
For instance, when composing an email inviting employees to a staff dinner, the writer should explain why and what would entail of the event to prep the reader the purpose of the message. In an effort to accommodate to the interests of your audience, also remember to highlight in the message about dietary preferences.
Give your audiences the right context, and dive into the important elements. However, refrain from going too far into detail; As much as we don’t like spending too much time covering a simple invitational email, your recipients will easily lose interest too if they don’t get the information they want within seconds.
Written by: (www.script.com.sg)
Edited & Illustrated by: Script Consultants Pte Ltd
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