Build top business writing skills

Build top business writing skills

Published in The Tennessean June 30, 2014

           By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville

“Can u help me i send lots of emails but 2 many r never opened.”

Save the abbreviations for personal text messages. Professional writing is an imperative skill in the business world. Even when reading clients’ business plans, I find poor grammar, careless errors, and elementary mistakes.

Grammar is critical. Spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and wording are important in presenting a professional image.

Most word processing programs, and even many email programs, help in this regard. But beware; words might be properly spelled but used incorrectly. Think “there” as opposed to “they’re” or “their.” And who hasn’t seen some amusing results from the dreaded autocorrect feature?

In all business correspondence, there are certain vital considerations:

The subject of an email or the first sentence or two in a letter must grab the reader’s interest. Be engaging and creative or be ignored.

Be clear and concise. With so much information available, readers choose material that is easy to read and understand. Short is better than long.

Avoid industry jargon and acronyms. Use nontechnical terminology or explain the meaning of the terms. Even if your initial recipient understands, your correspondence might be shared with others. 

Be specific in what you are saying and what you asking for in response. Have you conveyed your message and is the reader inclined to answer?

Use active instead of passive voice in most cases. For example, “We received an industry-best 9.5 customer satisfaction rating” instead of “A 9.5 customer rating was received by our company, which was the best rating in the industry.”

Proofread what you are about to send. When possible, have someone else proofread your work. It is easy to miss mistakes proofreading your own work because you know what you meant to say. Another reader is more likely to catch errors. Be especially careful when changing names and information in templates or form letters.

Don’t be showy! For example, “I can utilize the most advanced technological tools designed by software engineers to produce a website featuring an unparalleled interactive experience for your customer base” is better said as “I can create a user-friendly website your customers will love.”

Handwritten correspondence is rarely used today; therefore, it makes a great impact. We are so used to keying, correcting and rewording that it is difficult to write by hand. Consider typing, editing and then converting your final draft to handwriting. Remember that written correspondence takes time for delivery, so an immediate short email might be needed when speed is critical.

Take the time and effort in your writing to show that you care about the recipient. The results are worth it.

Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at www.scorenashville.org.