Improve your business writing skills
Okay, so you write for work all the time. Apart from a mountain of emails, you have written project proposals, status reports, management presentations and so on. Business writing is nothing new and nothing difficult. But how can you be sure that your writing is clear and effective? How do you know that your communications stand out?
Writing clearly is thinking clearly. You can have all the most innovative ideas in the world, but if you are unable to communicate them, then they don’t ever become reality. Being able to put together clear sentences and paragraphs is critical to communicating effectively and setting your messages apart. The good news is that this is a skill that can be learned.
We asked our resource person on business communication, Vina Vicente, for some tips on how to write simply, clearly and precisely.
Think before you write
Before you even turn on your laptop, do some thinking over coffee first. What do you want to say? Avoid working out your thoughts as you are writing, as this puts your communication at risk of being less structured, repetitive and unclear. Who is your audience? What do they need to know? If the answer is not immediately clear, look away from your screen and up to the sky for some reflection.
Rough draft: Write freely and without edits
Assume that everyone is busy and make your point right up front. What do you want or need? Present the idea as early as possible, then support with the background story and more data. At this point, you don’t even need to choose your words carefully or filter out your thoughts. Just write what you need to write, and figure out how to beautify it in the next step.
Improve content: Cut the fat
Read what you wrote again. This time, make sure that your words reflect the essence of your message. Again, assume that everyone is busy and use simpler, more familiar words (avoid jargons, please). Also use fewer words: people in business are not reading for pleasure; they read for work, and expect action and results in a short amount of time. Feel free to use the “Seven Cs of Communication” as a guide. The seven Cs are: completeness, conciseness, consideration, clarity, concreteness, courtesy and correctness.
Tighten your grammar: Check, check and recheck
Even the best writers in the world run the risk of a grammar misstep at some point. In our global business environment, a lot of people tend to neglect grammar. It’s okay to forgive grammar mistakes in verbal engagements, but remember that in business writing, grammar helps clarify the context, history, time and space of the message. Reread what you wrote another time, and watch out for the parts of speech and their usage.
End draft: Read one last time
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Is your point clear and well-structured? Are the sentences straightforward and concise? Read certain parts out loud to help surface the smaller flaws and even gaps in the messaging itself. Get someone else to read and edit your work; fresh eyes are always best.
One final tip: Write every day
Writing is a skill, and skills improve with lots of practice. Read others’ material, and pay attention to word choice, sentence structure and flow. Write every day, and build time into your schedule for editing and revising.
Vicente will facilitate a virtual workshop titled “Advanced Business Writing: Level Up Your Reports, Proposals and Presentations” this Aug. 15 to Aug. 16. For more information, you may write to [email protected], or send an SMS to these numbers 0919-3428667 and 0998-9641731.
For your other online learning needs, Inquirer Academy could assist you in designing and facilitating a virtual workshop, a webinar, or a self-paced online course for your organization.
The author is the executive director of the Inquirer Academy.
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