The effects of poor writing skills on businesses—and even to individuals who want to excel in their fields—can be painful: miscommunication between employees and employers, misrepresentation of products or services to your potential clients, and being left behind in a globally competitive sphere.
In an era when information is the soul of business operations and connections and when various channels are continuously emerging, conveying your message to other parties in an accurate and effective manner is critical.
So here are seven tips to make sure your business reports, emails, letters, or proposals get the right results:
1. Identify and understand your readers
You may have cultural differences caused by diverse backgrounds, experiences, and attitudes, the company’s history, goals, and vision, its environment, its needs, or sometimes, its traditions. Understanding these things will guide your tone as you write a letter or proposal.
For example, how will you propose a public speaking workshop to a group of employees who received poor evaluation for their communication skills without making them feel inadequate? Based on evaluations related to behavior, can this group be more motivated with the phrase “to avoid such low evaluation score” than “to explore new skills in communication“?
2. Say it loud and clear right way
When you have a well-defined objective, present it as a purpose statement in the first paragraph. This statement will equip readers with a solid idea of what they can expect on the rest of the paper. Afterwards, you should always ask yourself, “What do I want to happen after they read this?”
If you want to recommend new ways on keeping your workplace environment-friendly that was inspired by a seminar on eco-friendly marketing campaigns, then state that your letter will consist of suggestions backed up by the principles you’ve learned from the seminar, and not what the event was about.
If you are driven by a purpose, your words will align to that direction. What you will get are results, not readers scratching their heads.
3. Declutter: Use active and powerful lines
Rule out unnecessary words or phrases to avoid distracting readers and to help them get your message instantly. When you write “There is a need for the implementation of the new marketing concept that can be appreciated by the company and its employees,” you’ve come up with almost five thoughts that will overwhelm the readers:
- The existing need
- The implementation
- The new marketing concept
- Why the company will appreciate it
- What employees can gain
You can write it this way: “The storytelling technique will…” State what the marketing concept is and its specific benefits. Hence, you need to:
- use the active voice, not the passive voice, to sound powerful and assertive
- be specific—your readers are busy individuals so every sentence in your material is critical
The best point here is there will only be minimal questions because your line is straightforward, informative, and powerful already.
4. Add flair, but keep it real and quick
Using your own voice or style to avoid sounding like a robot, to reflect your personality, or to stand out a bit is fine. With the formal setting and type of audience in mind, you can write, “The objective of our group is to finish work by 6pm” as “We want to bring in results by 6pm.” Isn’t “results” more motivating than “finish work”?
5. Add some graphics when necessary
If you need to highlight a portion of your text, you do it by using tables, charts, diagrams, or images. Doing this will give readers’ eyes a break too. These materials should complement your tone (informal or formal) and fit the content you are stressing (ex. use a pie chart for comparing subjects and a table for categorizing or describing sets of data).
White space and headings are part of the overall look of a business document too. You need to follow the proper patterns and think of what the audience may experience in reading the material.
6. Another set of eyes can work wonders
Overfamiliarity with your document might make you miss some errors. Having someone else read it can help you pinpoint those that need corrections and give you an idea of the possible impression readers might have.
These are opportunities to polish the writer in you. Writing is an endless process of discovering and understanding, and surely, lessons gained from mistakes make your story more memorable.
7. Be honest and truthful
Seth Godin wrote, “The goal in blogging/business/inspiring non-fiction is to share a truth, or at least a truth as the writer sees it.” Metaphors and chic layouts will strike anyone for only a few minutes. But after the last page, your reader will only have one question “So now, what will I do?”
Prioritize honesty to achieve clarity, to achieve definite and meaningful results.
About the author:
Len Cristobal, a freelance writer and editor from the Philippines, enjoys working with clients worldwide, from New York to Singapore. She writes for business, finance, and lifestyle publications and develops content for websites and blogs. She is also co-heading a local group of writers and conducting freelance writing workshops and coaching sessions for aspiring scribes. She shares her thoughts on business, writing, and life on Twitter, @lencristobal86
Also by Len Cristobal:
1. How to Write a Poem and Wake Up the World (article)
2. How to Find Your Unique Writing Voice (article)
3. How to Get Clients in Less than an Hour for Your Writing Business (article)
4. How Non-Writing Conferences Can Change Your Freelance Writing Career (article)