Powerful and effective business writing
In conversation, environmental context, body language and eye contact support our intended meaning, however written communication relies on only the words, tone and the context created in the document. Here are some tips for effective business writing.
The living language
I very much like a term I heard recently, ‘the living language’. Whilst there are different interpretations of the term, I feel it describes the development of language. Language is alive, changing all the time, and yes, it can be challenging at times.
Social media is changing the language and grammar of young minds and who knows where it will end. N. James (2007) says about language development that one generation’s ‘barbarism becomes the next generation’s common usage’.
Plain English is more powerful than flowery prose
The move away from history’s very formal, stifling and overdressed language (which perhaps still is used to bewilder and maybe bully readers) to the concise writing of plain English, where we say what we mean (persuasive though it may be) can be confronting to some of us.
There is a relationship in business communication between shorter words, clear sentences, document presentation and an improved response and efficiency. Why? Because the message is clear and people understand. It makes sense.
"Overdressing words is a false economy and merely adds to the heaviness of the document’s tone by introducing clutter."
Creative design in business documentation
Creative design is now available to us in the preparation of our everyday documents and it does impact on our communication strategies in business writing. Good design is very influential in written messages and a wise writer uses it to full advantage.
Typefaces, spacing, white space, layout, headings, formatting, bulleted lists, hyperlinks, graphics and images are all part of document design and we have them at our fingertips.
Want more articles like this? Check out the business writing section.
Some writers use clutter to impress readers. Clutter relates to unnecessary detail or unnecessary words in your document and serves to hide or diffuse the impact of a message.
Have you seen the words ‘advance planning’ in promotional documentation? What planning is retrospective? What is ‘alternative choice’? Is not choice about an alternative? Overdressing words is a false economy and merely adds to the heaviness of the document’s tone by introducing clutter.
Instead of saying ‘The purpose of this report is to outline’, try ‘This report outlines’. Similarly, ‘John is responsible for managing the department’ reads better as ‘John manages the department’.
A useful tip to separate contributing words from clutter words is to get that red pen and read your document quickly, intuitively underlining words you think are important or central to your argument. This should give you an outline on which to develop an improved paper with no clutter.
Be honest but respectful
Promote integrity and trust in your business communications. Say what you mean but be respectful. People read between the lines and honest communication rings very true.
Punctuation is powerful too
Personally, I like punctuation. It is so powerful. How would you punctuate this unassuming sentence?
‘A woman without her man is nothing.’
Insert a couple of commas, and it takes on a completely different meaning: ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing.’ Replace one of those commas with a colon, and the meaning changes again: ‘A woman: without her, man is nothing.‘
I like the second one personally. The unassuming sentence is now powerful. But then I have motive, agenda and am being a little bit of a bully.
What are communication strategies do you use to influence your readers and make your business writing effective?