Presentation on theme: "Effective Business Writing - Hints & Tips"— Presentation transcript:
1 Effective Business Writing - Hints & Tips (courtesy of “TOP Services”)The Business Writing RulesHow To Approach1. THINK ABOUT THE READERPut yourself in the receiver’s place – have a “you” attitude.Who will read it? Who else?When will they read it? Why? Where?How much do they know and how much do I have to tell them?Always have a clear aim – what do you want the person to do?Begin by answering other person’s questions – put them in the picture. Make sure thereader knows who is writing, what the problem is and the solution.Decide on the impression you want to convey. What reaction will the document produce?Don’t put the other person to trouble to save yourself.Give answers and solutions – don’t just raise the problems.Use paragraphs – one to each theme. Use headings and topic sentences to help the reader.Keep the overall message structure simple.Ask yourself “What will the reader do with the document?”2. BE CONCISE AND DIRECTGet to the point – don’t waffle. Keep to specifics.Use an outline or plan, and say only what is necessary.Avoid unnecessary words – edit.Keep sentences short – average of 17 words.Keep sentence structure simple.Use the active and not the passive voice, use direct verbs. Avoid verbal nouns.3. USE SIMPLE, FAMILIAR LANGUAGE – PLAIN ENGLISHAlways write as you would speak.Write to express – not impress.Always be clear in your meaning.Simplify technical terms.Try not to use non – English words.Avoid dry meaningless phrases and clichés.Use variety.Avoid overstatement.Be precise, not vague.Use the common, every day word – ‘use’ not ‘utilise’.Use terms your readers can picture – concrete rather than abstract examples, use imagery.4. USE A FRIENDLY TONE AND BE POSITIVEEstablish a friendly tone.Always be positive.Avoid formality at all costs.Always end by pointing to the future – positively. What do you want the reader to do?What is the first step? Consider a statement of goodwill.PREPAREDefine the problem or purpose.What is wanted? How much? Why? When?Consider who will receive the document (think about the reader).Who wants/needs this information? Who will read it? When will they read it?How much detail do they prefer? Will the report be passed on to secondary readers?What is the reader’s point of view? Experience? Knowledge? Prejudice?Responsibility?Is the recipient a manager? A subordinate? A client or customer?A potential client or customer? What are their needs and interests?Do they need to be persuaded / sold / influenced, or told / informed / instructed?Determine which areas to include.How much do they know and how much do we have to tell them?Collect needed material.Create a “dump” of al thoughts and information, using key words.HAVE A BREAK AT THIS STAGESORT AND INTERPRET DATAGroup them into themes.Some people find it helpful to list ideas on cards so they can be sorted into order.If necessary, use manilla folders to organise information and materials into topics.HAVE A BREAKORDER – DO AN OUTLINESequence the material.This will be determined by your aim – is the material to be factual / instructive or persuasive(refer examples of Structure on next page). Use mind maps & fish bone plans to help.WRITEWrite as simply as you can.Remember your aim. Learn to transfer your thoughts directly into an electronic format – it ismuch faster than handwriting and then having to convert into an electronic file. Dictation ismuch faster again (if it is an option) and conserves energy whilst the ideas are flowing.Manage the drafts – use envelopes or some other version control system of knowing wherethe latest draft is.PREPARE FINAL DRAFT AND EDITPolish the writing style, and ensure that an appropriate tone is used:- Have a break before editing.- Read it ALL before changing.- Consider using a spell checker, a grammar checker and having someone check for you.Check to see the document is:- Clear (able to be easily understood at a first read).- Complete (does it answer all the reader’s questions and give all the information)?- Concise (as short as it can be consistent with getting all of the information across).- Correct (all facts are accurate and verifiable).- Courteous (where it is deemed appropriate).
2 Effective Business Writing - Hints & Tips Structure No. 1 – Short Formal ReportStructure No. 2 – Persuasive Memo or Letter1. THE SYPNOSIS OR EXECUTIVE SUMMARYThe executive summary is a one page or less summary of the entire report.The purpose, findings, conclusions and recommendations are stated as briefly as possible.The synopsis gives a preview of the report. As a summary of the full report, it can only beprepared after the report is completed.2. INTRODUCTIONExplain the:- Background.- Purpose.- Scope/Limitations.- Assumptions.- Methodology/Approach.- Audience.Background provides the context & situation that has created the need for the work/study.Purpose gives the reasons for conducting the work/study and preparing the report.It establishes the objectives or problems to be solved.Scope/Limitations outlines the extent of coverage and areas not covered, or particularshortcomings of the report. It makes clear what factors were studied, and to what extent.Assumptions that were made, if any, are described so the reader has an understanding ofthe writer’s direction & reference point in preparing the report.Methodology/Approach refers to the steps that were followed in undertaking the work orcollecting the data for the report.Audience indicates who the writer intended the report for and thereby pitched at.3. BODYThe Findings - After all of the information has been collected, combined and condensed, it isorganised for easy interpretation by the reader. Tables and figures are placed appropriatelythroughout the material and must be cross referenced to the text.Options may be analysed, showing the advantages and disadvantages of each.4. CONCLUSIONSThe Conclusions are the logical deductions drawn from the findings section. They tell thereader what the facts mean.5. RECOMMENDATIONSThe Recommendations should emerge from the findings and conclusions. They aresuggested solutions to the problem. As with the conclusions, the writer must be careful thatthe recommendations are not opinions. While based on human interpretations, they mustrepresent what a logical, objective individual would suggest based on the evidence.They should consist of statements of action only.The Appendix - Questionnaires, tables, figures and other information of interest but notdeemed necessary to include in the body of the report, should be placed as supplements.Table of Contents – If the report exceeds 5 pages, then consider a table of contents foreasy reference & location of content.1. INTEREST – PUT THE READER IN THE PICTUREUse a “grab” to get the audience’s attention – put them in the picture. Make a promise,tell a story, tell them “what’s new”, ask a question or otherwise arouse curiosity.If necessary, explain who you and your organization are. Explain what the problem is andwhat you can do to solve it.2. DESIRE - BENEFITSAppeal to the readers emotions. The emotions are the springboard for action.You can appeal to:- Self interest (greed) – works most often with most people.- Self elevation – sense of civic or community spirit, pride.- Sense of fairness – “we’ve been fair with you, you’ll want to be fair with us.”- Fear – but always leave a way out. Use the approach “you can avoid this trouble if…”The major way of arousing desire is to outline the benefits – what is in it for the reader?There are three main steps to outlining a benefit. For example, for a frost free refrigerator:Feature So what? Advantage which means… BenefitHas a fan So what? Doesn’t frost up, which means…. Don’t have to spend timedefrosting.3. CONVICTION - PROOFConvince the reader by offering evidence that your solution will work. Use statistics andexamples of success to reinforce the reader’s impression of the service you offer.4. ACTION – STIMULATE THE READER TO ACTIONMake the call to action. Leave the reader in no doubt about what you want. Make youraction step as easy as possible, and put a date on it. Don’t leave several alternatives.The last thing the reader sees is the first thing mentioned – so be positive.Don’t use clichés such as “hoping to hear from you soon”. The call to action is the first stepof the solution; the first “bite of the elephant.”5. SUGGESTED STRUCTUREConsider adopting a standard structure, such as:- To:- From:- Date:- Subject:- Background:- Proposal:- Benefits:- Recommended Action: