One of the trends that we have been observing since a massive part of the workforce worldwide adopted work from home is the necessity of business writing brush up. In the beginning, companies moved massively to apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others to accommodate their communication needs. Then it came to the “zoom fatigue” as some teams were expending most of their working hours attending online meetings. To avoid that more emails are being sent, consequently, people are again exploring writing communication.
We could not find a better moment to bring up some tips and techniques to enhance your business writing skills. Before the practical part, let's define what is business writing and why is it different from “normal” writing.
Firstly, the purpose of this kind of communication is to provide information so the reader can learn something or do something. It could be supplemental information for a meeting, a report, or a request. That is why the popularity of the expression “it could have been an email” to indicate that most of the time a well-written email can achieve the goal better than one more online meeting.
Secondly, you must determine the objective of your message. It needs to have a clear objective to be effective. The key here is to identify who the reader is and what they need to know or do.
Organise your Ideas
Organising your thoughts before writing it is a valuable tip for any type of text. It will help you to deliver a more effective message. The best method to achieve it is based on journalistic principals:
- Who – Who is the message about or who is involved?
- What – What is the objective of this communication?
- When – When is it happening or taking place?
- Where – Where is it happening?
- Why – Why is it happening?
Once, you have organised the items above you will have a better understanding of how you can write your message directly. You don’t need to have all of them, but bear in mind the idea of the “5 W’s”.
Now, it is time to write your message.
Tips to Deliver an Objective Message
- Concise: Use only words that will help you to convey your message.
- Clear: Be specific instead of general, be definitive instead of vague.
- Positive attitude: Make definite statements and avoid noncommittal language.
- Active: Try to use the active voice as much as you can, it will sound more energetic and confident. Always reread your message to see if can use more active verbs.
- Professional: It is important to act in a way that meets the standards of your profession. That is valid for all kinds of interactions, not only written ones.
The 3 Basic Parts
Considering that most of the written communication happens by email, it is important to keep in mind the 3 basic parts. A greeting, a body, and a closing.
The greeting is important as it will set your tone. From the recipient's point of view, it will always bring a more peaceful atmosphere, even when the topic of your email might be difficult, for example. When you jump directly to your subject without a greeting you can give the impression that you are angry or upset if the person is not familiar to you in-person.
The body of your message is the most important aspect. It is where you need to think about the “5 W’s”. The goal is to be as objective as possible to deliver your message correctly and get the output expected. If your message requires a call to action start from it and then give some details and background info. In this case, if the recipient is the type of person, who does not read the full message, they will get the idea.
The closing is always polite and leaves a lasting impression. Add it into your default signature, so you do not need to type.
How to Edit your Writing
Editing is essential, writers and journalists are used to this crucial step. But even when you are writing an email you must apply some basic principles to guarantee that your message is clear and concise. The steps below are useful for all types of texts, such as documents, presentations, reports, articles, and even emails.
Step away before you dig in – This is applicable mainly for documents, reports, and any kind of text that requires more work from you. If the deadline allows, always give yourself some time away from the document. Writers use the rule of the next day. Write a piece of content in one day, review it, let it rest, forget about it and come back on the next day to reread and do the final adjustments.
Get feedback from others - Sharing your writing with others ensures your document reads the way you want it to.
Print the document - No matter how good you are at reading and writing on-screen, it is still easier to read from paper. If it is something that will be printed on a large scale you must ask more people to read and check the document. Usually, the ones who are not familiar with the topic will be the ones spotting typos.
Read the document aloud! Hearing your message will give you a better idea of how it will sound to others as they read it. This tip should apply to all your writings, including emails. Always re-read your message before pressing the send button.
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Tips for Writing Emails
Working remotely and apart from our colleagues is requiring more emails and online calls than most of us were used to. Situations that before could have been sorted out by talking to the person sitting next to us, now require a phone call, a chat message, etc.
Let us brush up some basic rules about emails:
- Be objective, but give some context.
- Never use caps lock, even for highlighting something. If that is the purpose use colours, bold, highlight, there are a lot of other ways of doing that.
- Always re-read your email before sending it.
- Avoid writing an email by impulse.
- Double-check if it is necessary to reply all.
- To is the main recipient of the email, people listed there are expected to take action about that communication.
- CC stands for carbon copy, which means that they should be listed to know about the topic, but no action is expected from them.
*Sources for the above article: Customguide.com and HBR.
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