Shirley's Articles / Business Writing
Are You Caught In The Prison Of Old Corporate Ways?
I was chatting to my good friend Nabil Doss* recently. He’s an expert in helping business leaders communicate effectively so they can inform, influence and inspire. Working in the movie business for so long as the French voice of Paramount Pictures in Canada, Nabil has mastered the art of putting together short, compelling messages – just like a movie trailer.
With my passion of helping people to write more effectively, a lot of the principles Nabil shares are the same as the principles that I advocate in my email and business writing training with corporate clients in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Social media has reshaped the way we communicate
The social media world is one where we are using fewer words, with more stories and images. Most people today have such a fragmented attention span, so we have a very short window to make an impression and to call for action.
Our world today screams for short snippets.
However, despite this, the corporate world has somehow still not caught up. Many organisations are still failing miserably when it comes to teaching their people how to write emails.
Why are we so long-winded in our email and business writing?
With limited time and so overflowing inboxes, readers want to read messages that are simple and clear. Readers want to read and understand messages easily. Readers want to know exactly how to reply. I’m sorry to say that I am still not seeing this happening in many organisations today.
Here are some questions to ask about the emails you receive:
- Do you want to hit delete because the message looks unattractive and overwhelming?
- Do you wonder why the writer is going round in circles and repeating him/herself?
- Do you have difficulty focusing because the content is all over the place?
- Does the message sound like a template instead of a human being?
Here are some questions to ask about the emails you write:
- Are you trying to impress your readers when you write?
- Do you start some sentences with ‘Kindly be informed’ or ‘Please find attached’?
- Do you have difficulty trying to get to the point so it ends up long-winded?
- Do your messages sound like a template instead of a conversation with a human being?
If you are guilty of any of the issues here, you are making your writing more difficult than it should be. And more importantly, you’re making reading much more difficult for your reader.
So, whose writing is worse? Material you write, or material you read?
When answering a survey question** about the effectiveness of what respondents read/write, the result (out of 10) was: Material I read: 5.4 – Material I write: 6.9
Interesting, isn’t it? It seems most people think their writing is better than it really is!
So what’s the answer, Shirley?
The answer is Plain English. I’m very happy to see that some organisations are simplifying their language in official business documents and messages by using Plain English.
Plain English is writing that’s fuss-free and ‘fluff-free’. It’s easy to write, easy to read, and easy to understand. Plain English involves using short, clear sentences with everyday words. Plain English contains no redundancies or jargon.
After producing a clearer bill in Plain English, British Telecom saw customer enquiries fall by 25% every quarter.
If your readers are confused or can’t focus when reading your messages, you could be missing out on countless business opportunities. Writing in Plain English will mean you can click ‘send’ with confidence, and your reader will easily understand what you’re saying. And that means you are more likely to get the right response.
When Arizona’s Department of Revenue rewrote one letter in Plain English, it received about 11,000 fewer phone calls than in the previous year.
Don’t get caught in the prison of the old corporate ways
Younger people in the workplace today were born with social media, so they know how to communicate concisely, using few words, images, emotion. It’s so sad if you lose that by getting caught in the prison of the old corporate way of writing long-winded, template-style jargon that bears little resemblance to a conversation between two real live human beings.
Tall order, yes! But not impossible!
My good friend Nabil, in talking about how he works with leaders and professional speakers, tells me: “Any speech, presentation or opportunity to share our ideas and visions much be as entertaining as an Oscars evening, as compelling as a documentary from the BBC, and as inspiring as a speech from Gandhi. That’s a tall order.”
Tall order, yes! But it’s not impossible. With the right help!
81% of respondents in a survey** said poorly written material wastes a lot of their time.
It’s also not impossible to craft a clear, concise, well-structured message that’s written with the reader in mind, with the right tone of voice.
Tall order, yes! But it’s not impossible. With the right help!
Don’t ruin your reputation with poor writing
Poor writing ruins productivity. Poor writing wastes time. Poor writing wastes money. Poor writing ruins relationships. Poor writing ruins reputations.
Want to know more? I’d love to help you and your organisation. Let’s get this sorted before it’s too late!
Email me: email@example.com
* Nabil Doss – www.nabildoss.com
* Josh Bernoff – www.bernoff.com
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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at shirleytaylor.com.