What Makes Good Business Writing?
Good business writing is a skill that should be mastered in all its forms: memorandums, e-mails, marketing campaigns, customer service information, business plans, employee negotiations, and more. If you are in business, you already know that you spend the better part of your day communicating with people through talking, writing, and negotiating. While technology advances have allowed to us to communicate the written word to employees and customers in minutes, most people have not updated their writing skills to keep pace with this near-instantaneous communication.
Communication as we knew it only five, 10, or 20 years ago has been swept away with the tide of technology. Everything is sleeker and faster. However, one thing has remained constant: written communication skills. The success of an individual's career, as well as the fortunes of any business, may depend on these vital writing skills.
No matter what business you are in, poor written communication is something that can sabotage your success. Yes, we live in a world dominated by computers and telephones; but even today, writing is still one of the most crucial ways to effectively communicate with another person.
Every day at work, you write numerous e-mails, you draft business plans and letters, you compose sales letters to your customers, and you create business proposals. What you write is probably as important as how you write it. Your written communication can work wonders for your company and your success or it can lead to your downfall.
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When you go to an important meeting or an interview, you make sure that you are prepared. You dress with care, trying to make an impeccable impression on the people you are about to meet. Whether right or wrong, your appearance can make a world of difference in how other people view you. The same holds true for business writing. Have you ever taken a look at how your written communication appears to other people?
Your writing makes the same kind of impression as your clothes do. It needs to convey that you are an intelligent and skilled person who is a thorough professional. However, if your business writing is riddled with errors and mistakes, rest assured that all notions of your professionalism will quickly fade from your audience's mind.
Content and presentation are the two pillars of business communication.
If your business writing is rich in content but fails to involve the reader, is not written well, or does not convey your intended message, you have failed in your business communication. Similarly, if your business writing is accurate and professional but lacks content, clarity and facts, then you have also missed the communication objective.
If you want to develop good writing skills, the first thing you need to learn is how to strike a fine balance between your content and the way it is presented.
To achieve this balance, you should start by following the Seven Cs of Business Communication. If you understand and follow these rules, you will develop an unbeatable edge in your business communications.
The Seven Cs of Business Communication:
Clear: Clarity is paramount in any kind of business writing. Not only should you be clear about the message you want to convey but also ensure that it is completely understood by your audience. A good place to begin would be by asking yourself these three questions: What is the purpose of writing this document? Who is the reader? What action do I want the reader to take after reading this document? These questions will help you focus on your content and avoid straying from the point.
Concise: Brevity is the heart of writing. Ensure that your documents are short and sweet. Wordy business correspondence is not only annoying and distracting, but time-consuming on both the writer and reader. Remember, the reader is a professional like you, who has a busy day ahead, so do not waste their time. Keep your content short and simple.
Correct: Written communication says a lot about the writer. If a business letter has spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical errors, and punctuation problems, the impression one gets is that the writer is incompetent and unprofessional. So make sure you review and revise your work before sending it out.
Courteous: A business letter is a professional document; hence, you have to ensure the tone is always courteous and polite. You should never come across as being rude or angry. Similarly, racist, sexist and derogatory remarks must be strictly avoided in all business writing. Also, while writing a business letter, make sure that the spelling of the name and title of the receiver is correct.
Conversational: Your business communication should sound personal and professional. Many company communications do not involve the reader. To keep your audience from being alienated, keep your tone crisp and chatty.
Convincing: Business writing must have accurate information supported with relevant content to convince the reader to take action. Ultimately, your aim is to convince the reader to do something. So, present your case, support it with reason, and request an action.
Complete: Always review and revise your business writing before sending it off. Go back and review those three questions you asked initially. If you are satisfied that you have covered all of them, go ahead and send out your e-mail or letter.
Now that we have covered the prerequisites for good business writing, let us take a look at some of the most common errors in business writing.
Here are the top 10 mistakes people make in business communication:
Too many words: Often people use more words than are required to get the point across. There is little or no editing and the sentences can stretch on for miles.
Frequent and unnecessary use of jargon and clichés: People often use jargon and outdated clichés in their business writing. They believe that by using such terms, their writing looks professional. However, such words have the opposite effect and tend to alienate the reader.
Punctuation mistakes: Even though people believe that they have a good grasp of their language, they often end up making punctuation mistakes. The use of commas, periods, colons, semicolons, and quotation marks is often wrong.
Grammar mistakes: You might be very good with the language, but more often than not, business communication falls prey to grammatical mistakes. Pay close attention to grammar. If you are not sure, find help.
Spelling mistakes. Inattention to detail and lack of revision ends up in a document riddled with spelling mistakes; this lends an unprofessional impression to your writing. There is absolutely no excuse for spelling mistakes with the spelling check programs available.
Overuse of flowery language: Big words and complicated sentences do not show that you are an intelligent person. Business writing should be crisp and simple. It has to sound professional and like a normal one-on-one conversation.
Too many negative expressions: Business writing should always have a positive tone. Instead of stressing what you cannot do, give the reader options of what you can do.
No clarity: Use of vague expressions and a noncommittal stand can confuse the reader. Be clear and specific in your message, and readers will understand the action you will take.
Condescending tone and sexist language: Your business communication should not offend or hurt anyone. Use a polite and warm tone, use neutral terms, and avoid reference to race, sex, and class.
Inaccurate information and no attention to details: If your business writing comes across as sloppy and with inaccurate information, it will never be taken seriously. Cross-check all the information you provide in your business writing to ensure accuracy.
We live in a world that believes speed equals efficiency. However, it never hurts to slow down and take time to review what your business communication is actually saying.
Remember that writing is thinking. Make sure your writing comes across as well-thought-out, with correct information, and is written in a warm and professional tone.
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