An Effective Writing System for You and Your Team
29th February 2016 | Fiona Talbot
Author of How To Write Effective Business English, 2nd Edition, Fiona Talbot talks through the four key ways to effectively implement a system for writing in business.
In a nutshell, the Word Power Skills system I teach (detailed in the book), is based on four steps that give you those building blocks.
1. Being correct for purpose as well as mistake free
- Work out what your message needs to achieve, alongside how it’s going to reflect your organization and values and consummate professionalism.
- Don’t let the speed of response that digital requires, for example, trap you into sending out errors.
This step will help you see that errors can be spelling or grammar mistakes and/or incorrect facts, or even things sent to the wrong people at the wrong time. These things cost you on many levels. It’s not just the potential loss of custom or the burden of duplicated work to get things back on track; it’s the totally avoidable loss of goodwill and reputation too.
Build in time to think and check before you send.
2. Being clear
- Time is money for your readers as well as for yourself and your company, so be concise.
- If you’re not clear where your message is leading, why should readers be?
- Keep to one topic per paragraph; use informative headings where possible.
- Try to start your sentence with your subject, so people know who or what is involved.
This step will help you realize that if your readers need to get back to you for clarification or if they don’t get back to you the way you hoped, or if they ignored your incomplete or ambiguous message, your communication failed.
3. Making the right impact
- Now that most everyone’s a writer, how do you get heard above the noise? Well, choose the right words to grab attention and a layout that’s easy to read.
- Try verbs with verve. Did you notice the alliteration there? It too can energise text.
- But it’s no good having a captivating headline that you can’t live up to. And certainly never let your written content disappoint with irrelevant clickbait.
This step will help you see that people share when they’re excited by what they read. You’ll soon figure out that it won’t be words like ‘Maybe we have a solution that could possibly be of some assistance’ that register. It’s far more likely to be: ‘Yes we can do that for you. And we have a great offer right now’.
4. Focus on readers as your customers
- Once you’ve followed step 3 and painted a picture with your words, use a palette that will resonate with your audience. Get to know as much about them as you can.
- Favor positive, proactive words to engage, persuade, influence - and create a following if you’re on social media.
- Avoid jargon that could put up barriers.
- Understand that when it comes to using Business English, one size won’t fit all.
As an illustration of how this step helps, let’s look at this wording on sportswear Adidas’ global website:
‘Go get better, share your skills, compare yourself with the best and challenge your friends.’
It uses very clear wording, easily understandable by all on first reading.
Let’s contrast this with wording used on their Adidas India website:
‘Criticism and self-doubt can paralyze the most talented athletes. Only a rare breed converts the stones thrown at them into milestones…’
The language is rather more poetic and thought-provoking. It requires a more sophisticated understanding of the English used.
So here’s a conundrum to be aware of. English is a language of global connection, but there are many varieties of English you may need to tune in to. It’s because, rather amazingly, there are more non-native than native English speakers using the language in business today. Get your antennae out and tune in before you write!