Clear and persuasive written communication is essential to the success of every business professional. From emails to strategic plans, our days are filled with communications between and among colleagues, shareholders, vendors and customers. Well-developed communications can improve sales and productivity, mitigate operational errors, increase employee morale and improve workflow efficiencies.
Business professionals are relying more on written communications as social-distancing guidelines restrict in-person meetings and virtual meetings may not offer the right opportunity to discuss specific issues or seek action. The new year is the perfect time to commit to honing your business-writing skills. Below are some easy-to-use tips that you can incorporate into your writing to become a more effective communicator.
1. ‘Bottom line up front’
Effective writers lead with the main ideas and requests for action. The military has successfully adopted this communications tactic for internal memos, terming it “bottom line up front.” BLUF can help you achieve greater clarity in reports and emails, while facilitating rapid decision-making by putting the most important details first.
Your readers’ time and focus are valuable; using this system of writing can reduce frustration and increase your team’s productivity.
2. Write with empathy
No matter what you’re writing, always consider your readers’ needs and concerns. Using a writing style and format that suits them, not you, will demonstrate respect and empathy for their situation, while at the same time allowing you to communicate with them more effectively. For example, a CEO may prefer succinct memos that can be reviewed on a tight schedule, while a new hire might need a lengthy, detailed briefing document before tackling an assignment.
Writing with empathy draws upon your emotional intelligence so that you can thoughtfully design communications that move your audience to respond or take action. Additionally, acknowledging your readers’ situation and needs will help you establish stronger relationships and build rapport with them, which in turn will help you achieve your goals.
Well-developed communications can improve sales and productivity, mitigate operational errors, increase employee morale and improve workflow efficiencies.
3. Provide visual cues
We’ve all been hit with anxiety-inducing emails that overwhelm us with a wall of text. When readers can’t easily find the information to understand what is being asked of them, they will not be in a position to make a decision or reply quickly.
While you can’t avoid receiving these messages, you can use formatting features to help ensure that you don’t inflict this pain on others. In addition to writing clearly and putting the most important information first, think about ways to separate and emphasize key points. Use bullet points, indentations, new paragraphs and bolded text to give readers visual cues that flag critical information and asks, as well as help them to follow your thought process.
4. Proofread your writing
Proofreading is the crucial last step before you hit “send” on that draft. Typos and even small grammatical errors reflect on the writer and will also distract from the points that you are trying to make. Demonstrate your respect for your readers’ time by carefully proofreading your work. If possible, enlist a colleague to proofread important documents.
Take advantage of free digital writing-assistance tools like Grammarly; they are no-brainer aids to improving your writing. Not only can artificial intelligence software significantly reduce grammatical errors, but these tools can also suggest changes to diction and formatting, for example.
Writing clearly, thoughtfully and with empathy takes effort but is one of the most critical skills for a business professional. Well-written communications can accelerate decisions and actions and help make you more productive and valuable to your organization and customers. Take these tips to heart as you strive to be a more effective writer this year.