Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing

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  • Readable
    Tactful
    Personal
    Positive
    Active
    Unified
    Coherent
    Clear
    Concise
    Mechanically sound
  • Readable: allowing your audience to focus on your meaning, not your writing style
    Write the way you talk
    Vary sentence length (average 20 words) and construction
    Use action verbs
    Carefully choose active or passive voice
    Choose familiar, specific (not abstract) words
    Use lists, headings, and white space effectively.
    Keep it short and simple (KISS)
  • Lacks readability: I congratulate you on the purchase of your new insurance policy. It will be a source of security and peace of mind for years to come. It will increase in value over time. It will also provide a hedge against inflation. You will be glad you made the investment.
    Improved readability: Congratulations on the purchase of your new insurance policy. For years to come it will be a source of security and peace of mind. Increasing in value over time, it will also provide a hedge against inflation. You will be glad you made the investment.
  • 2) Tactful: taking care to not offend or alienate the reader
    Avoid language bias (gender, cultural, religious, age, sexual orientation)
    Ensure tone is non-accusatory
    Use humour appropriately
  • Guidelines for using humour
    Could it possibly offend or alienate my audience (including secondary readers)?
    Is it sufficiently in context - i.e. related to the topic?
    Does it add worthwhile value and/or impact to my message?
    Are there any barriers to the humour being understood - i.e. language, culture, values...?
    Does it prevent me in any way from achieving my objective?
    Will it detract from the desired professional image?
    If you are completely comfortable with your responses to all of these questions (i.e. you have no doubt whatsoever), then it's probably okay to include it.
  • Lacking Tact: If an employee can't get out of bed in time, he should at least call and let his supervisor know that he will be late.
    More Tactful: Please notify your supervisor if you are going to be late.
  • 3) Personal: delivering a message to the reader rather than from the writer
    If appropriate, frequently use second person pronouns such as “you” in your writing.
    When using the third person, think about how you can direct the message to your reader.
    Be empathetic and try to consider your reader’s needs and point of view.
  • Writer-focused:
    We know you’ll enjoy the many benefits of our new health care plan.
    Reader-focused:
    You are going to enjoy the many benefits of your new health care plan. orYour new health care plan will benefit you in many ways.
  • Using tone to personalize the message:
    Instead of “The Department encourages members to assist with its staff development program by making suggestions about on-the-job training.”
    Why not…
    “Suggestions from you and your fellow members concerning on-the-job training are encouraged; your input plays an important role in your company’s staff development program.”
  • 4) Positive: using a tone that encourages a positive interpretation
    Make language upbeat and tone “can do.”
    Highlight positive information by placing it at the beginning or end of the message.
    Where necessary, use repetition for emphasizing the positive.
    Discuss influencing factors and suggest reader benefits before introducing potentially negative information.
  • Negative:
    Our meeting failed to accomplish anything and unless you have any other ideas, we are abandoning the notion of a merger.
    Positive:
    Do you have any additional thoughts to help us make a final decision regarding the merger?
  • 5) Active: applying the active voice to focus on the “doer”
    Use the active voice most of the time to be more emphatic and concise.
    Choose the passive voice if you wish to de-emphasize (or don’t know) the identity of the “doer.”
  • Active voice: The internal task force negotiated
    the important contract.
    Passive voice: The important contract was
    negotiated by the internal task force.
    Active voice: The dispatcher relayed the call.
    Passive voice: The call was relayed by the
    dispatcher.
    or
    The call was relayed.
  • Other strategic uses of passive voice:
    Emphasizing the recipient of the action: You have been selected to make the trip.
    De-emphasizing negative news: Your car has not yet been repaired.
    Intentionally concealing the doer of the action: A major clerical error was made.
  • 6) Unified: including only information related to the main message
    Ensure all ideas in the document relate to the overall purpose.
    Eliminate unnecessary details.
    Clearly indicate how ideas within sentences relate to one another.
    Check that paragraphs do not contain more than one central idea.
  • Lacking unity: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you yesterday, and I have redesigned the floor plan for the station.
    Unified: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you yesterday. Based on your advice, I have redesigned the floor plan for the station.
  • 7) Coherent: connecting ideas and making them easy to understand
    Ensure items in a series have parallel structure.
    Show relationships between ideas by using linking words (and, if, when, before, after).
    List items in a series to make them stand out.
    Clarify relationships with numbering.
    Use headings to highlight and introduce main ideas.
    Check for dangling constructions and misplaced modifiers.
  • Incoherent: Attending the class, a cadaver was used for experiments.
    Coherent: When I attended the class, a cadaver was used for experiments.
    or
    The class I attended used a cadaver for experiments.
  • Lacking parallel structure:
    Our goals are increased productivity, reduced costs, and improving quality.
    Attaining parallel structure:
    Our goals are increasing productivity, reducing costs, and improving quality.
    or
    Our goals are increased productivity, reduced costs, and improved quality.
  • Take special care with parallel structure in lists:
    The sales team objected to the following:
    1) reducing salaries
    2) limiting travel expenses
    3) daily sales meetings
    Third point not parallel with first two
    Instead you might write -
    3) scheduling daily sales meetings
  • 8) Clear: making the message easy to understand the first time it is read
    Clearly develop your ideas so that there are no unanswered questions.
    Use language that is precise, concrete, and vivid.
    Make language level appropriate for purpose and audience.
    Ensure words used are familiar to reader.
    Define unfamiliar technical terms, short forms, and acronyms with first use (particularly important if there is a secondary audience).
  • General: Someone will contact you soon.
    Precise: Our division supervisor will email you tomorrow morning.
    General: We’ll look after your concerns.
    Concrete: Bob Conroy, our safety officer, will review the emergency procedures with you.
    General: The building was in poor condition.
    Vivid: Several windows were broken, the front door was off its hinges, and all of the hallway carpets had holes and bare patches.
  • 9) Concise: being economical with words
    Eliminate wordy expressions.
    Omit trite phrases.
    Avoid unnecessary repetition.
    Replace abstract terms.
  • Wordy: We are fully cognizant of the fact that you are predisposed to non-concurrence with our opinion.
    Concise: We know you don’t agree.
  • KISS (Keeping it short and simple)
    in all probability…
    close proximity…
    at a later point in time…
    needless to say…
    if you would be so kind…
  • Saying it twice – redundancy
    The two cars were exactly identical.
    His salary increase was small in size.
    We are in need of some new changes.
    Let’s meet at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon.
  • 10) Mechanically Sound: eliminating errors to ensure understanding and credibility
    Verify all sentences are complete and properly structured.
    Check your punctuation.
    Double-check your spelling.
    Don’t trust Spell/Grammar Check to find all errors.
    Purchase and use a dictionary, a thesaurus, and possibly a style guide.
    Whenever possible, use a peer editor.
  • How many errors can you spot?
    Please accomodate the companies discrete request to replace it’s principle negotiater.
    >>>
    Please accommodate the company’s discreet request to replace its principal negotiator.
  • Avoiding the dreaded “comma splice”
    NOT The client requested an early meeting, I suggested a 7 a.m. start.
    INSTEAD The client requested an early meeting. I suggested a 7 a.m. start.
    OR The client requested an early meeting, so I suggested a 7 a.m. start.
    OR The client requested an early meeting; I suggested a 7 a.m. start.
  • Using therefore, however, otherwise, consequently, moreover, or then:
    NOT The boss looked angry, therefore, we waited for the next elevator.
    INSTEAD The boss looked angry. Therefore, we waited for the next elevator.
    OR The boss looked angry; therefore, we waited for the next elevator.
    OR The boss looked angry, and therefore we waited for the next elevator.
  • The importance of proper punctuation:
    Version 1: Woman without her man is lost.
    Version 2: Woman: without her, man is lost.
  • “Leaving out a semi-colon when it is needed is like winking at someone in the dark; you know what you are doing, but no one else does.”
    - Diana Bonet
  • Readable
    Tactful
    Personal
    Positive
    Active
    Unified
    Coherent
    Clear
    Concise
    Mechanically sound
  • Effective business writing is:
    clear
    concise
    lacking interference
    focused on the reader
  • Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing

    1. 1. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing  Readable  Tactful  Personal  Positive  Active  Unified  Coherent  Clear  Concise  Mechanically sound
    2. 2. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 1) Readable: allowing your audience to focus on your meaning, not your writing style o Write the way you talk o Vary sentence length (average 20 words) and construction o Use action verbs o Carefully choose active or passive voice o Choose familiar, specific (not abstract) words o Use lists, headings, and white space effectively. o Keep it short and simple (KISS)
    3. 3. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Lacks readability: I congratulate you on the purchase of your new insurance policy. It will be a source of security and peace of mind for years to come. It will increase in value over time. It will also provide a hedge against inflation. You will be glad you made the investment. Improved readability: Congratulations on the purchase of your new insurance policy. For years to come it will be a source of security and peace of mind. Increasing in value over time, it will also provide a hedge against inflation. You will be glad you made the investment.
    4. 4. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 2) Tactful: taking care to not offend or alienate the reader  Avoid language bias (gender, cultural, religious, age, sexual orientation)  Ensure tone is non-accusatory  Use humour appropriately
    5. 5. Guidelines for using humour  Could it possibly offend or alienate my audience (including secondary readers)?  Is it sufficiently in context - i.e. related to the topic?  Does it add worthwhile value and/or impact to my message?  Are there any barriers to the humour being understood - i.e. language, culture, values...?  Does it prevent me in any way from achieving my objective?  Will it detract from the desired professional image?  If you are completely comfortable with your responses to all of these questions (i.e. you have no doubt whatsoever), then it's probably okay to include it.
    6. 6. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing  Lacking Tact: If an employee can't get out of bed in time, he should at least call and let his supervisor know that he will be late.  More Tactful: Please notify your supervisor if you are going to be late.
    7. 7. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 3) Personal: delivering a message to the reader rather than from the writer  If appropriate, frequently use second person pronouns such as “you” in your writing.  When using the third person, think about how you can direct the message to your reader.  Be empathetic and try to consider your reader’s needs and point of view.
    8. 8. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Writer-focused:  We know you’ll enjoy the many benefits of our new health care plan. Reader-focused:  You are going to enjoy the many benefits of your new health care plan. or Your new health care plan will benefit you in many ways.
    9. 9. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Using tone to personalize the message: Instead of “The Department encourages members to assist with its staff development program by making suggestions about on-the-job training.” Why not… “Suggestions from you and your fellow members concerning on-the-job training are encouraged; your input plays an important role in your company’s staff development program.”
    10. 10. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 4) Positive: using a tone that encourages a positive interpretation  Make language upbeat and tone “can do.”  Highlight positive information by placing it at the beginning or end of the message.  Where necessary, use repetition for emphasizing the positive.  Discuss influencing factors and suggest reader benefits before introducing potentially negative information.
    11. 11. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Negative:  Our meeting failed to accomplish anything and unless you have any other ideas, we are abandoning the notion of a merger. Positive:  Do you have any additional thoughts to help us make a final decision regarding the merger?
    12. 12. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 5) Active: applying the active voice to focus on the “doer”  Use the active voice most of the time to be more emphatic and concise.  Choose the passive voice if you wish to de- emphasize (or don’t know) the identity of the “doer.”
    13. 13. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Active voice: The internal task force negotiated the important contract. Passive voice: The important contract was negotiated by the internal task force. Active voice: The dispatcher relayed the call. Passive voice: The call was relayed by the dispatcher. or The call was relayed.
    14. 14. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Other strategic uses of passive voice:  Emphasizing the recipient of the action: You have been selected to make the trip.  De-emphasizing negative news: Your car has not yet been repaired.  Intentionally concealing the doer of the action: A major clerical error was made.
    15. 15. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 6) Unified: including only information related to the main message  Ensure all ideas in the document relate to the overall purpose.  Eliminate unnecessary details.  Clearly indicate how ideas within sentences relate to one another.  Check that paragraphs do not contain more than one central idea.
    16. 16. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing  Lacking unity: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you yesterday, and I have redesigned the floor plan for the station.  Unified: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you yesterday. Based on your advice, I have redesigned the floor plan for the station.
    17. 17. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 7) Coherent: connecting ideas and making them easy to understand  Ensure items in a series have parallel structure.  Show relationships between ideas by using linking words (and, if, when, before, after).  List items in a series to make them stand out.  Clarify relationships with numbering.  Use headings to highlight and introduce main ideas.  Check for dangling constructions and misplaced modifiers.
    18. 18. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Incoherent: Attending the class, a cadaver was used for experiments. Coherent: When I attended the class, a cadaver was used for experiments. or The class I attended used a cadaver for experiments.
    19. 19. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Lacking parallel structure: Our goals are increased productivity, reduced costs, and improving quality. Attaining parallel structure: Our goals are increasing productivity, reducing costs, and improving quality. or Our goals are increased productivity, reduced costs, and improved quality.
    20. 20. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Take special care with parallel structure in lists: The sales team objected to the following: 1) reducing salaries 2) limiting travel expenses 3) daily sales meetings Third point not parallel with first two Instead you might write - 3) scheduling daily sales meetings
    21. 21. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 8) Clear: making the message easy to understand the first time it is read  Clearly develop your ideas so that there are no unanswered questions.  Use language that is precise, concrete, and vivid.  Make language level appropriate for purpose and audience.  Ensure words used are familiar to reader.  Define unfamiliar technical terms, short forms, and acronyms with first use (particularly important if there is a secondary audience).
    22. 22. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing General: Someone will contact you soon. Precise: Our division supervisor will email you tomorrow morning. General: We’ll look after your concerns. Concrete: Bob Conroy, our safety officer, will review the emergency procedures with you. General: The building was in poor condition. Vivid: Several windows were broken, the front door was off its hinges, and all of the hallway carpets had holes and bare patches.
    23. 23. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 9) Concise: being economical with words  Eliminate wordy expressions.  Omit trite phrases.  Avoid unnecessary repetition.  Replace abstract terms.
    24. 24. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing  Wordy: We are fully cognizant of the fact that you are predisposed to non- concurrence with our opinion.  Concise: We know you don’t agree.
    25. 25. KISS (Keeping it short and simple) in all probability… close proximity… at a later point in time… needless to say… if you would be so kind…
    26. 26. Saying it twice - redundancy The two cars were exactly identical. His salary increase was small in size. We are in need of some new changes. Let’s meet at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon.
    27. 27. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing 10) Mechanically Sound: eliminating errors to ensure understanding and credibility o Verify all sentences are complete and properly structured. o Check your punctuation. o Double-check your spelling. o Don’t trust Spell/Grammar Check to find all errors. o Purchase and use a dictionary, a thesaurus, and possibly a style guide. o Whenever possible, use a peer editor.
    28. 28. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing How many errors can you spot? Please accomodate the companies discrete request to replace it’s principle negotiater. >>> Please accommodate the company’s discreet request to replace its principal negotiator.
    29. 29. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Avoiding the dreaded “comma splice” NOT The client requested an early meeting, I suggested a 7 a.m. start. INSTEAD The client requested an early meeting. I suggested a 7 a.m. start. OR The client requested an early meeting, so I suggested a 7 a.m. start. OR The client requested an early meeting; I suggested a 7 a.m. start.
    30. 30. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing Using therefore, however, otherwise, consequently, moreover, or then: NOT The boss looked angry, therefore, we waited for the next elevator. INSTEAD The boss looked angry. Therefore, we waited for the next elevator. OR The boss looked angry; therefore, we waited for the next elevator. OR The boss looked angry, and therefore we waited for the next elevator.
    31. 31. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing The importance of proper punctuation: Version 1: Woman without her man is lost. Version 2: Woman: without her, man is lost.
    32. 32. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing “Leaving out a semi-colon when it is needed is like winking at someone in the dark; you know what you are doing, but no one else does.” - Diana Bonet
    33. 33. Ten Characteristics of Effective Business Writing  Readable  Tactful  Personal  Positive  Active  Unified  Coherent  Clear  Concise  Mechanically sound
    34. 34. Ten Characteristics executive summary version Effective business writing is: o clear o concise o lacking interference o focused on the reader

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