Better Business Writing Methods

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15 methods to write better for business proposals, memos, emails, etc.

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Better Business Writing Methods

  1. 1. 15 WAYS TO WRITE BETTERApril 2014
  2. 2. Introduction Good business writing is simple, clear & concise. Its virtually “transparent”. By not calling attention to itself, good writing helps the reader focus on the idea you are trying to communicate, rather than on the words that describe it.
  3. 3. 1Keep in mind that reader doesn’t have TIME … Any business writing often travel to senior managers who have tight schedules and much to read. Your memos, e-mails, etc. must be clear on the first reading. The shorter it is, the better chance it has of being read and considered
  4. 4. 2Know where you are going before you start … Start with list of the important points you want to cover, then put them into an outline. Write the Overview section of the memo first. Write the important paragraphs before you get to details and supplementary material.
  5. 5. 3Don’t make spelling or grammatical errors … Readers who find bad grammar and misspelled words will perceive the writer to be careless or uneducated. They will not put much stock in the writer’s ideas.
  6. 6. 4Be responsive to the needs of the reader Don’t be accused of missing the point. Before you write, find out what the reader expects, wants and needs. If you must deviate from these guidelines, let the reader know why early in the memo.
  7. 7. 5Be clear and specific … Use simple, down to earth words. Avoid needless words and wordy expressions. Avoid vague modifiers like “very” and “slightly”. Simple words and expressions are clearer and easier to understand. They show confidence and add power to your ideas.
  8. 8. 6Try to use the present tense … Be careful not to slip from the present to the past tense and back again. Select one tense and stick to it. Use the present tense when possible to add immediacy to your writing.
  9. 9. 7Make your writing vigorous and direct … Use active sentences and avoid the passive voice. Be more positive and definite by limiting the use of the word “not”. Avoid a long string of modifiers.
  10. 10. 8Use short sentences and paragraphs Send telegrams, not essays! Vary length to avoid monotonous looking pages, but remember that short sentences and paragraphs are inviting and more likely to get read.
  11. 11. 9Use personal pronouns… Don’t hesitate to use “I”, “we” and “you” even in formal writing. The institutional third person can be cold and sterile. Personal pronouns make your writing warm, inviting and more natural.
  12. 12. 10Avoid clichés and jargons… Tired, hackneyed words and expressions make your writing appear superficial. Find your own words and use them.
  13. 13. 11Separate facts from opinions… The reader should never be in doubt as to what is fact and what is your opinion. Determine what you “know” and what you “think” before you start writing. Be consistent about facts and opinions throughout the memo, etc.
  14. 14. 12Use numbers with restraint… A paragraph filled with numbers is difficult to read, and difficult to write too. Use a few numbers selectively to make your point. Put the rest in tables and exhibits.
  15. 15. 13Write the way you talk… Avoid pompous, bureaucratic and legalistic words and expressions. Use informal, personal, human language. Write to others the way you would talk to them. Read your memo out loud, if you wouldn’t talk that way, change it.
  16. 16. 14Never be content with your first effort… Revising and editing are critical to good writing. Putting some time between writing and editing will help you be more objective. Revise your memo with the intent to simplify, clarify and trim excess words.
  17. 17. 15Check your numbers one more time… Proofreading means seeking out and eliminating factual errors, typos, misspellings, bad grammar, incorrect punctuation. But for many readers, it is the numbers that really count. When number is recognized as incorrect, your entire line of thinking is suspect.
  18. 18. Outlining April 2014 a proposal
  19. 19. Focus of the outline SITUATION ANALYSIS RECOMMENDATION RATIONALE Where are we today and why are we there? What should we do about it? Why is this a good thing to do?
  20. 20. 1Think and assemble … Review your strategy. Think about your reader. Know precisely what you want your writing to accomplish. Write it down. Assemble the information that will go into the memo. Put down all facts, assumptions and supporting arguments on paper in any order or judge them yet.
  21. 21. 2Evaluate and rank … Identify and separate “need to know” information. This is background information and historical perspective that will go into your Situation Analysis. Eliminate all but the minimum needed for the reader to understand the situation. Identify and separate the recommended course of action. Develop your rational:   Eliminate or fix invalid arguments.   Tighten fuzzy arguments.   Combine similar arguments into stronger statements.
  22. 22. 2Evaluate and rank … Rank your arguments from most telling to least important. Remember, the ranking should be based mainly on what is important to the reader. Trim from the bottom up, leaving only as many arguments as you need to sell your proposal. Test your argument against the reader’s decision criteria. Look for weaknesses. Be certain you haven’t missed anything the reader would consider important.
  23. 23. Format The proposal
  24. 24. Overview A paragraph that tells the reader the purpose of the document. It should include the main idea (the situation and recommendation) and your opinion on the subject (the reason this is a sound proposal). Overall cost and concurrences should be included if possible. The opening section provides top line information and serves as an executive summary of the complete document that follows…
  25. 25. Situation Analysis Recommend ation Rationale This section is the foundation on which the proposal is built. It provides background information and historical perspective that the reader must understand. Include relevant facts and key assumptions that influence your recommended course of actions. A concise statement of the recommended action and how it will be accomplished. Focus on the “what”. Provide enough to give the reader a clear overall picture, but save implementation details the “how” for later. A numbered list of reasons that support the recommendation in order of importance. Try to start with the expected impact on the business and include relevant precedent. Each reason should start with a clear topic sentence followed by supporting facts
  26. 26. Alternatives Considered Implementati on Plan Next Steps What is the reader expected to do? Tell the reader exactly what will happen if he concurs. Be specific about dates, people and financial commitments. Present your plan for accomplishing the recommended course of action. Break your plan down into components like timing and resource requirements. Organize logically into sections with appropriate headings. A brief description of other actions considered. Discuss why each was rejected in favor of your proposal. Only include serious alternatives.
  27. 27. THANK YOU…

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