Writers in Business and Industry are not generally paid by the word, yet one might think otherwise considering the length of many Business Communications.
Of course, most business people would readily agree that the most effective letters, memos, and reports are those that are written clearly and succinctly. That being said, one has to question why any writer would feel compelled to fill a communication with a lot of unnecessary text. In other words, why write a book when a chapter will do?
Granted, communicators need to write expansively enough in order to properly cover a subject, but many times wordiness is taken to the extreme. The reasons for this are debatable, but most would seem to fall under one or more of the following categories:
* Believing that brevity means unimportant
* Mimicking the Organizational Writing Style
* Engaging in “Spin” tactics
* Having an unclear writing objective
* Showcasing one’s writing talents
While each of these reasons are different, they all share the common pitfall of placing the writer’s agenda ahead of the needs of their readers. An effective way to combat this is for writers to follow a writing process that builds interest and readability from the outset. The following ten steps outlines such a process:
1. Highlight the subject of the communication in precise terms.
2. Use bullets to outline key points.
3. Expand on the key points without resorting to hype or innuendo.
4. Amend for brevity by eliminating “nuts and bolts” details.
5. Enhance clarity – resist overusing jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms.
6. Avoid over-complicated charts and tables
7. Make the text easy to read with indents and paragraphs.
8. Use vocabulary wisely by sticking with common Business Language.
9. Proof, edit and condense before finalizing.
10. Reality-test the communication with others before publishing.
As you can see, these steps do not represent anything new for most experienced writers. But what they do represent is a reminder of how to compose Business Communications that are focused, readable, and informative.
A related area that is largely ignored by many Business Communicators is “reading level”. While generally not an issue when communications are directed at a specific readership, it can be a serious problem when communicating en masse to a modern diverse workforce.
More a cultural issue than a question of formal education, many employees, both native and foreign-born, often find themselves at a disadvantage due to a basic unfamiliarity with business-oriented language. What this means is that the burden falls on writers to craft communications that will be readable and understandable to a broad audience.
The best advice is to write at the level of a typical newspaper article. For the most part, this level of writing, by design and necessity, is meant for a broad readership, i.e., it is professional and informative without being showy or condescending — a writing style that should be the aim of any Business Communicator.
This is not to suggest that communicators need to “dumb down” their writing with slang and colloquialisms, but what it does suggest is that unless you are drafting a specialized communication for a select audience, it is best to refrain from using words and terms that are more appropriate for the Board Room or Annual Report.
In the end, be mindful that not everyone who reads your communications may be as proficient as you with the subtleties of written language. Effective Business Communicators understand this implicitly and adjust their writing accordingly. Do you?