Yes, business writing is a thing. It is everything from your résumé to emails to lengthy reports. It requires attention to detail, organization and loads of self-editing. It could also mean the difference between getting that dream job or having your résumé tossed in the can.
The College Board data shows that 50 percent of employers take writing into consideration when hiring professional staff and 80 percent of corporations with employment growth potential assess writing during hiring. Moreover, a growing number of employers realize that writing skills are critical to their own success and consider them when hiring and promoting.
Unfortunately, not all of us hold MBAs, yet we find ourselves wanting or holding jobs where we are expected to output high levels of communication - much higher than we were trained for. Additionally employers can’t afford writing mistakes that might cost them future business.
The good news is that even if you feel you don’t have high competency in writing there are tips, tricks, and techniques that can greatly improve your effectiveness.
Know your audience: Let’s say you want to pitch a new client with an engaging letter. Do your research. Think about what the client needs and how you can deliver a beneficial product or solution. Add details that clearly express you know the facts about their current goals or challenges. Is there a new CFO? Are they operating from profit or loss? Always take the time to address correspondences using specific names, and spell them correctly.
Prioritize your ideas: Decide what your reader needs to know and how to put those ideas together in a way that demonstrates forward thinking. If you need to create an Executive update, for instance, make certain the facts you present are logically ordered based on your desired outcome. You can organize via a chronological approach, or timeline; or you can choose to list ideas in order of importance. Finally, a summary or action plan will direct your reader with clarity and precision.
Establish tone: Whether writing a memo, letter, report, or any type of business document, tone is present in all communication activities. It reflects you as a writer and affects how the recipient receives the communication. Advice by Bryan A. Garner’s HBR Guide to Better Business Writing reminds us to avoid hyper-formality. Also, resist the urge to be sarcastic, even if it is tempting. Sarcasm irritates audiences. Lastly, sound like yourself, but use appropriate diction and cordial language.
Be concise: Your readers are busy. Make sure you speak accurately and make your points in a way that says you respect their time. Use “you,” over “I,” and make it abundantly clear why the reader should care. Business writing should always be action oriented.
Use your words: Do not let bold fonts, extreme capitalization, or other design gimmicks do the work. While there is a place for style, it should complement the writing not stand for it. Additionally, choose your words thoughtfully and let those powerful choices open the door to improved communication.
Proofread: Spellcheck should be used, but it is not foolproof. Make sure you are using the correct words in the right way. This can be tricky especially when we are using words that are easily confused - like “affect” and “effect” or “compliment” and “complement.” There are many writing guides. Use them.
Read it aloud: Finally, a great way to isolate and remove typographical errors is to read your draft aloud. Read off the screen or print out a copy and read it to a colleague. Even try reading it backwards!
Using these tips, tricks, and techniques will help you on the road to improved communications and greater success with your career or business.
Now doesn’t that make good sense?