Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sharpen your business writing skills

In today's fast paced lifestyle, writing something that can be read and understood in seconds is of prime importance. To ensure your correspondence does not get stuck in a pile of unread letters or unopened emails, make sure you stick to the following guidelines.

1. Keep each sentence short. Using long sentences and intellectual sounding passages does not make us more intelligent. A concise report saves reading and writing time. A good trick is to read the report out aloud. If you've run out of breath at the end of any sentence, it's too long and should be modified.

2. Be specific. Use specific and concrete words. Do not make your readers guess about the context of the material. If needed, included specific dates, times and venues.

3. Use the active voice. A sentence written in the active voice is straightforward and to the point. A simple example of an active voiced sentence is 'The CEO gave a speech to his shareholders'. In a passive voice, this would be 'A speech was given by the CEO to his shareholders'. See the difference?

When writing, avoid if possible the following words, which signify the passive voice:
is being
has been
have been
had been

4. Organize your ideas. Put them down on a sheet of paper before starting to write. Make sure you get to the point straight away. All similar thoughts should be grouped together to make for easy understanding. Using headings, numbers and bullet points will ensure that the reader can remember your points and can refer back to them easily.

5. Write as you wish to be seen. If you use long winded pompous sentences, that is how you will come across as a person, to your readers. Similarly, if your tone is too friendly and confidential, you may not be looked upon as someone to be taken seriously. Use positive words and avoid stuffy clich├ęd business phrases.

6. Edit and spell check your document. Make sure it's grammatically correct and use a spell check before sending it out. There is nothing more unprofessional than receiving a poorly spelt document. Remember though, that most computer programs are tailor made to catch poor spelling mistakes, not poorly constructed sentences. If possible, get someone else to look through your document.

A well written document not only saves time, but also positions you as a figure of authority. A poorly written piece may even cost you your business. Investing a little time and energy in proper written presentation will surely increase the positive results you'll get.