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Business Writing: What You Write is a Direct Reflection on You and Your Company

Mar 20, 2008
One of the true laments from management today is that employees cannot express themselves with the written word. Owners and stockholders have the same complaints about management. Today in the age of the paperless office the importance of the written word is increasing especially as direct live voice contact becomes more and more problematic.

If you want to communicate, you have to write. The written word, whether digital or etched into stone, remains the primary means of relaying data, information, thoughts and ideas.

Many businesses lack the ability to generate a well written business letter or well scripted marketing collateral. Not having this ability puts these businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Who wants to consider a business proposal that is awkward and full of errors? What impression does a homepage with spelling errors project? Good business writing is not just a nice frill -- it is a necessity.

Every text that is written by your business is a reflection on your business. Misspellings, poor grammar, awkward syntax and weak logic project a negative image. These weaknesses can relay the impression that you are uneducated, unsophisticated, lack personal pride, are lazy, ill or all of the above.

Since the consequences of poor writing are surprisingly severe, it is better to not write anything than to write poorly. No writing leaves the issue up in the air; poor writing tells the world just where you establish your standards.

Pick up three or four pieces of written material from your company. How does your company rate? Do you require employees use spelling and grammar checks before sending out important letters or email? A spell and grammar checker can act as an editor and prevent simple typos and oversights; a first line of defense against poor writing.

Or do you or your people have difficulty clearly expressing themselves? If so, take a step back and look at your capabilities. You can either send everybody to Adult Ed and Junior College to learn how to write or hire someone that already can.

For your people that can write having their own writing style is fine as long as it is correct and in good business taste. You don't have to go to military speak but neither is this the time to wax poetic and verbose.

Using slang in a memo to a company CEO may look cool at first but be perceived as 'low rent' when the CEO reads it. Always think first, what impression do you want to give?

If you are hiring for a position that requires writing skills, ask the applicant to write several paragraphs about what attributes they will bring to the company. For assessing writing skills what they write about is not as important as how they write it.

For managers this is more important since written reports are part of a manager's job description. Never hire a manager before you clearly know their writing skills.

To write well it helps to read. Read whatever interests you and read as much as you can every day. If you read a newspaper; look how style and syntax relay the message.

By reading well written material the rules of grammar and syntax become more formalized in your brain. Simply put, the more you read, the better you write.

Clearly writing practice makes for improvement if not perfection. Good writers write everyday and take pride in each piece they write. Good writers make sure the intended meaning is the meaning expressed. It is not only challenging to write well but fun if one develops positive attitudes about writing. Besides, what's not to like about writing well?

Only basic common sense should tell you that anything that is written or in text, such as a webpage or a handout brochure needs to be reviewed thoroughly before posting or printing. If you dare put out 'junk' that is full of holes, you will be shooting down your efforts before you start. So don't even try.

Review all of your written materials to see if they need to be improved or rewritten. Be your own editor first and then have some "outside eyes" look at it. Take all criticism constructively and use that criticism to improve.

Look in the mirror when you come up with excuses for poor writing. Excuses such as lack of formal education do not count in the marketplace. Some with little or no education have excellent writing skills while many university graduates cannot write a simple sentence correctly.

If you write poorly your message will be muted and not accomplish what you intend it to do. Good writing is a challenge and not something one can fudge or postpone.

If you can't do it, hire someone that can. Always remember that for better or worse you and your company are what you write.
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of Jack D. Deal Business Consulting, Santa Cruz, CA. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/writing and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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