It doesn’t matter if you’re a personal assistant who must draft correspondence on behalf of your boss, or a marketing director putting together a new strategy, everyone in business needs to write better to communicate better. Anthony Ehlers gives the lesson.
- Find the right shape for your message. Spend some time figuring out why you want to write the piece. What is the message you want to get across to the audience? Decide what format would work best for this — an email, infographic, report, brochure, and so forth.
- Know your target audience. Keep the reader in mind. Is it an internal message going to your staff? Do you want to engage existing clients — or target new ones? What do you want them to know? Write this out in a single sentence and keep it in front of you when you’re writing.
- Get the draft down. Once you have an outline of the piece and you know who your reader is, write the first draft quickly. ‘You have permission to write badly’ applies in business as it does in fiction. It’s better to see your thoughts on paper than keep it locked in your head.
- Get out your scissors. Try to put your document aside for a day before editing. Cut out words, sentences, and paragraphs that are repetitive. Always try to adhere to the principles of plain language. If your company has a style guide, refer to this as you edit.
- Go for clear rather than clever. The idea is always to get the right message in the mind of the reader as quickly as possible. It’s not to prove to the reader than you know many big words and have mastered business speak.
- Strike the right tone. You don’t want your tone to come across as too cold and formal — but you also don’t want it to be too chummy and relaxed. Look at words or phrases that change the tone in your piece and see if they can’t be rewritten.
- Get out your scissors – again. People don’t have time to read today — so don’t give them more to read. It’s the quality of your writing rather than the quantity that matters.
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