Posted by: Jane Dominguez, CPA | May 11, 2010

I Know What Technology Did to You

I Know What Technology Did to You

 

Technology made you a writer. It wasn’t long ago that we depended on the phone or in-person meetings to conduct our business. Now we accomplish about 74% of our business communication with emails and can add social media on top of that. Twenty or thirty years ago we did more talking than writing, but that has all changed. Like it or not, we are all writers now, and writing a lot.

Yes, we all write, but we are not all writers, and never aspired to be. Many of us are still haunted by memories of high school English, stumbling over required essays and compositions, learning to pad and fluff them to meet the minimum length requirements. We quickly forgot about the dreaded dangling participle, and wouldn’t recognize an antecedent if it was sitting next to us.

Our business image and success depend on our writing skills, but much of what we learned in school did not prepare us for the non-stop writing required by business today. We shoot out endless emails as quick as our fingers can type and hit send without a second thought. We’re accustomed to getting our information quickly, in easily digestible tidbits, and are loathe to trudge through an in-depth grammar book. We don’t want to spend our few minutes of free time studying a writing style guide. So what do we do? Here are a few tips to help you on the road to email writing success:

1. Write for your audience. Successful business professionals write from the reader’s perspective based on their existing knowledge of the topic, focusing on what they want to know. We are all selling something, it might be a product or service, but often it is our opinion, a recommendation, or a new idea. Overcome the temptation to tell them everything you think they should know and concentrate on information that will meet their need or level of interest. Your readers are constantly asking, “what’s in it for me?” When we write from our reader’s perspective, they pay better attention and we get the write results.

2. Keep it simple. Barraged with emails and other messages at an overwhelming rate, readers are attracted to the short ones. No matter how well we write, business readers don’t read, they scan our material looking for the main point or what they need from it. Familiar words keep our readers skimming our email, while unfamiliar terms make them pause, prompting them to move on to the next email. Keeping sentences concise and paragraphs short also keeps us from treading into the dark waters of complicated grammar. Keep it simple, and your reader will keep reading.

3. Put your main point at the top. Now that we know readers don’t read, it is critical to put our main point where they are most likely to see it. We have to make the first two sentences count; it is our best opportunity to get our reader’s attention. If we get their attention upfront, they are more likely to actually read what follows. Restate the main point at the bottom of your message, the one other place our readers are likely to notice it.

4. Don’t forget your GPS (grammar, punctuation, spelling). The use of proper grammar and punctuation demonstrates respect for our reader, and establishes our credibility. Remember that spell check cannot correct word choice errors. It does not know if “your” or “you’re” is the correct word for your sentence. If you have a question about grammar or punctuation, try one of the many, easy-to-use, online resources. One of my favorites is “The Purdue Online Writing Lab,” http://owl.english.purdue.edu/ Their search engine makes it easy to find the answers to your questions.

5. Don’t ignore proofreading. We write and send countless messages and it is tempting to skip proofreading, but don’t. When our writing contains errors, the reader focuses on these and not the content. Careless errors may lead the reader to believe there are also errors in the facts. These blemishes immediately tarnish our image and dilute our credibility as a professional. If our business writing is not worth the time to proofread, our reader won’t think it is important enough to read or respond to requested action.

This is an expansive topic and these tips are only a start. How do you make sure your business writing makes the right impression for the write results? How can I help you succeed?

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Responses

  1. Oh, boy, I have read this somewhere on the web before, but it stands repeating. We are all writers now! I read many, many blogs, and quite a few are simply awful. It takes a James Joyce to ignore the rules of rhetoric and grammar. Bravo for this wonderful information! molly

    • Thank you for the compliment Molly. I think there are many of us helping people to recognize that technology has made us all writers.

  2. […] know whom they might know and at some point in the process, introduce you to. 9. Sending a brief, high-impact email or snail mail follow-up thank-yous to all contacts with whom you connect, showing you value their […]


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