A good piece of writing could make the difference between building a relationship or breaking one, explains Shirley Taylor

If you’re like most people, you probably write at work all the time: messages to stakeholders and collaborators, proposals to clients, reports to senior managers, plus of course a constant flow of emails to colleagues and customers. But how much importance does your organisation place on written communication?

Many businesses spend thousands on technical training, or leadership skills, customer service or conflict resolution. But how many invest in serious training to ensure their written messages are passed along clearly and concisely? Very often, a good piece of writing could make the difference between building a relationship or breaking one, making a sale or not, keeping a customer or losing one.

Busy and overworked executives and managers often say they can’t afford the time to improve their writing. But in my view, you can’t afford not to take the time.

If your organisation is serious about investing in your future success, and that means the success of your workforce, you need to encourage effective writing as a company-wide initiative.

So what is good writing? Let’s look at some key elements of effective business writing today:

1 The new norm is global business English

It’s so important to look at the subtle changes we need to make in our writing style to reflect our present-day business world. We need to consider the reader and produce reader-friendly messages. The focus should be on communicating with heart, using language that connects, language that’s very similar to spoken language. When you do this, you’ll learn to build trust and earn respect with every message you write.

2 Plain English is crucial

Readers today don’t enjoy long sentences, big words, jargon and abbreviations. They want to read messages that are simple and clear, written in plain English. When you write concise messages that the reader can understand, you are more likely to get the right response the first time, instead of engaging in a long series of “ping-pong” emails.

3 Good planning leads to good writing

Good writers plan and structure their messages carefully. They know how to plan the message in a logical flow so the reader gets the necessary information and knows exactly what’s required. Some great formulas here can help you to ensure success in this planning process.

4 Looking good is important – in writing too!

Readers like attractive, readable, scannable documents, so they can pick out the key points easily. Good writers know how to make their messages look good. And when your message looks good, you will look good, and you should get the right response.

5 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of email

With huge pressure to reply quickly, the quality of written messages has declined. But what you write and how you write it will affect what people think of you – just as a handshake does when you meet someone face-to-face. Well-written emails that look and sound professional will help people feel good about communicating with you.

6 Your tone counts too

It’s important to consider how the reader will interpret your written words. Using the wrong tone will not only cause misunderstandings and confusion. It may also cause offence and it could damage relationships. When you use the right tone, you’ll influence your readers, you’ll build relationships, you’ll create a positive impression, and you’ll get readers to take action.

If you want to set yourself apart, make a great impression, get work done successfully and build a strong business, then good writing is as essential as having a great suit and a firm handshake. It’s not a skill you were born with, but it is a skill you can cultivate. And that cultivation must start at management level. Now is the time to start!

Bestselling author of 17 books with international publishers, Shirley Taylor is widely-regarded as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. She is a high-energy, high-content speaker and trainer who educates, inspires and motivates ... (Read More)

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