Adapted from the original article by Joyce Restaino.
There is no sale until you sell yourself. Every business professional knows that. Whether you are selling your ideas to your boss, selling yourself to get that promotion, or actually selling for a living!
So you practise your presentation and put on your ‘power suit’. You’re well-groomed, well-dressed, and well-spoken. No image problem here. Well… not until you sit down at the keyboard and start to type.
How much thought do you actually give to your writing?
Email is now the primary way to communicate, and everyone is writing. The problem is that we compose messages quickly, often without any time spent planning, then in a flash we hit the ‘Send’ button – and then move on. Unfortunately, this haphazard approach to writing could ruin your reputation.
Joyce Restiano spent over 20 years teaching writing and working as an editor, she experienced a number of common writing problems. This made her realise that, although there are differences between writing email messages and putting words on paper (reports, presentations, promotional materials and letters), the principles for business writing remain the same.
How to improve
So, how can you improve your writing? Read more. People that read are exposed to the rhythm and the flow of language. Over all, avid readers are better writers. Practise, just like you would to improve your golf game. Take a writing course and your words will speak volumes. Think about what message you are sending your readers?
Indigo’s Writing Dynamics™ workshop is helping thousands of organisations improve their writing skills. We deliver this via public workshops in the UK and North America, and to organisations at their choice of worldwide location. In only two days you can discover simple, easy to implement, powerful techniques to get your message read and most importantly remembered.
What to avoid
To polish your writing, and your professional image, Joyce recommends avoiding these six mistakes:
Not having a clear purpose:
Before you hit the keyboard, ask yourself “Why am I writing this?” People that have trouble writing usually have no clear purpose. Think about your reason for writing. Are you writing to inform, educate, or persuade the reader? Are you writing to simply update a company policy? Do you want information from the reader? Or do you want the reader to complete a task? Having a clear purpose makes it easier to compose your message.
Being writer focused (getting it done), instead of reader focused (getting it read and understood). When we write, we tend to think about our needs, instead of our reader’s needs. Big mistake. Always think in terms of your reader. Consider your relationship with the reader and what the reader knows about your product or service. Compile a list of questions your reader might ask, and use the answers to create your message. For instance, the owner of a tutoring service might be asked: How many sessions must I sign up for? How much will it cost? How long will it take before my child sees improvement? By answering these questions, you also focus on the benefits of your product or service.
Using a negative tone:
An abrupt and rude tone, will ruin your impact – especially in your first communication. How would you react if you received an e-mail message that started with “I didn’t submit information about this to you…” Well, that’s how Joyce’s request to verify information was answered. Ouch! Writing is more than what you say, it is also about how you say it. Your goal is to keep a positive and upbeat tone in all of your correspondence. Instead of saying, “Mr Fox, if we do not receive your cheque by 20 April, we will close your account,” say “Mr Fox, your account will remain open and in good standing if we receive your cheque by 20 April.”
Writing that is vague, instead of clear:
Let’s say you send this email message: “We should meet to talk about the items you want to order. They are too expensive.” Your reader is thinking: When is the meeting? What time? Where? What items? What does ‘too expensive’ mean? Use exact numbers, dates, time, and specific information. To eliminate doubt, write: “Let’s meet in my office at 1 pm on Wednesday, 13 April, to discuss the computer and printer you want to order. These items cost £3,000, but we have only budgeted £1,500.”
Being too wordy:
Writing in a wordy, formal style instead of a simple, conversational style will bog down your reader. Avoid phrases like “As per our conversation….” Do away with acronyms and jargon (words that are common to your industry), corporate speak (business terms like ‘wooden dollars’), and highfaluting words. Some people think five-syllable words make them sound smart and important. Actually, it has the opposite effect and places a barrier between you and your reader. Still not convinced? The two sentences below mean the same thing. Which is more powerful?
- “Any particular task, no matter the scope thereof, which is considered to be useful or held in some degree of regard by the person or persons setting out to accomplish said task, should be executed in such a manner as to produce exemplary results.”
- “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
Spelling and grammatical errors:
Unfortunately, misspelled words, typographical errors, and poor grammar tarnish your image because they create the impression that you are careless and unreliable. Never send a letter or an email message without proofreading and sense-checking it. Remember spell-check does not know the difference between ‘grown’ and ‘groan’.
It is always a good idea to print out what you have written. It is easier to catch errors on a hard copy than on a computer screen. If you have a co-worker who is good with words, ask them to proofread your work.
Want to add impact to your writing?
Joyce Restaino is an award-winning writer and editor.