By Heather Baker
Do you want to ensure people read your messages? Do you want to convince people to do what you want?
Preparation is vital before sending any business communication; this may only take a few seconds for a simple email but, even so, ALWAYS STOP BEFORE YOU SEND.
Firstly, establish the purpose of your communication. It is easy to say the objective is “to obtain information” or “to arrange a meeting” but, if you keep asking yourself “why?”, you will usually come to the answer that it is for the success of the organisation.
Secondly, think about the people who will be reading your correspondence. The more you know about your reader(s), the better you can tailor your correspondence to make it more effective.
Next, ensure you have all the information you need, anticipate your reader’s questions and provide answers in advance, ensure you have a clear structure; particularly if your correspondence is complex. For emails, give your message an informative subject so your reader can easily prioritise.
When you have composed your correspondence, it is vital to proofread before you send.
In most circumstances in business writing we are trying to persuade somebody to do something for us – it is, therefore, important to use techniques that will make your messages more persuasive. Here are some ways you could achieve this:
· Continually maintaining a high standard in your business writing is the basic rule of persuasive writing.
· Many people still write in a style more suited to the 1950s than the 2010s; using phrases like “If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me”. These are known as business clichés and they are to be avoided.
· WIIFM = what’s in it for me. Tell your reader why it is to their advantage to do what you want them to do.
· Offer solutions rather than problems. This is particularly effective if you are trying to persuade senior management.
· When we have to ask people something which we expect they won’t like, we tend to write in a manner that anticipates their dissatisfaction. Our style becomes very apologetic and negative, which can actually exacerbate their displeasure. Where possible, try to turn bad news into good news.
· Use appropriate vocabulary. For example, use the same sign off as the person you are writing to.
So, what is it that makes the difference? The five Ps – preparation, purpose, people, proofreading and persuasion. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do something else – choose to excel at business writing.
Heather had over 20 years’ experience as a secretary and PA before setting up Baker Thompson Associates in 2000. The company specialises in the training and development of PAs and administrative staff.
She travels around the world working with large and small organisations to enable their office staff and PAs to work more effectively. As well as PA/admin workshops, Heather facilitates sessions in business writing, proofreading, minute taking and much more.
Heather is the author of “Successful Minute Taking ; Meeting the Challenge” and “Successful Business Writing”, in which you learn even more about business writing. She is the creator of the BakerWrite speedwriting system and the author of “Speedwriting”. As well as tutor-led courses, BakerWrite speedwriting can also be learnt online at Heather’s website.