Shirley's Articles / Business Writing
How To Get Your Message Across And Get Great Results From Your Writing
Everybody has to start somewhere, and my love for rearranging and rewriting words and restructuring messages flickered to life when I was working as a secretary. As my boss would dictate notes I would be typing them out, but sometimes they didn’t make sense, and that’s where it all began.
I remember one day when I asked him to sign a letter, he looked at me and said, “I didn’t write this.” Gosh, I was shocked, until he quickly followed by saying, “But this was exactly what I wanted to say.”
In my nine years as a secretary, I took great pride in making any document look and sound fabulous, and my bosses were always very appreciative, which also helped.
It seemed natural for me to fall in love with teaching Business English in 1983, and my passion to transfer my learning and experience has continued to grow as I have moved into professional speaking and training. Much has changed over the years. Global Business English is no longer formal, distant and cold. It’s now warm, friendly, and conversational. Let’s take a look at what you can do to get your message across and get better results from your writing.
The Biggest Business Writing Blunder
Is there one key thing that many people are doing in their writing that is just not working? Well, yes there is. So many are writing in a different way to how they speak. Often, people think there are two rules – one for speaking and one for writing. This is not so. People tell me “Oh this is what I would say, but I’d never write it. And this is what I’d write but I’d never say it.” This is where the problem lies.
If you wouldn’t say “Kindly”, why write it? Write “Please” instead.
If you wouldn’t say “Please furnish me…”, then why write it? Write “Please let me have…” instead.
If you wouldn’t say “Below-mentioned is the list of books we require”, why write it? Write “Here is the list of books we need”.
Write An Effective Subject Line
One of the most important parts of your email is the subject line. Experts say you have a mere three to four seconds to grab your reader’s attention and interest them in opening your mail out of the dozens they are likely already receiving. You have only 50 characters, so use them wisely by telling the reader exactly what the email is about.
A Great Formula To Structure Messages To Ensure Great Results
In my online interactive program, I go over many extremely helpful formulas for writing. Today, I’d like to share with you a formula called The 4-Point Plan, which I’ve taught to thousands of individuals for over 30 years. It’s very simple and logical, and if you use it every time you write, you will reduce all the email ping-pong that is happening right now in many mailboxes, and you’ll be more sure of a great reply.
The point of your introduction is to set the scene. You may want to refer to a previous contact or message. Keep it brief and friendly. Remember, this is your ‘opening handshake’. Here are some examples:
- Thanks for your call this morning.
- It was great to see you yesterday, and thanks for showing me around your new factory.
- My good friend John Lim suggested I should contact you. He said you were the person to contact regarding…
- My research shows that you are a local San Diego expert in XYZ. I’m very interested in this, so I would love to connect with you.
Think about the details as though they are the filling to a sandwich. This is the meaty part where you might state facts and figures, or tell the reader what you want them to know.
This is where you give all of the information your reader needs. Make sure it is presented logically, and use separate paragraphs for each new idea. Using bullets or numbers is another great way of helping yourself as well as your reader.
Be brief and precise when you tell the reader what you want them to do, and if you yourself will be taking any action. And when you want the reader to do something, start your sentence with “Please”. Some examples include:
- Please complete and return this form to me by 24 May.
- As soon as you hear from John, please get back to me with the details.
- I suggest we aim to meet at my office on Thursday at 1pm. Please let me know if this is still good for you.
And now you just need a simple, one-line close to finish off with. But make sure it’s not a boring, standard, template-like close, such as “Kindly do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further clarifications.” Write something simple, relevant and friendly. Some examples are: “I’ll call you soon to answer any questions” or “Please give me a call if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to help”, or even “Have a great weekend”. I really don’t like the boring “Thank you”. How about changing it slightly to make it warmer by finishing with “Many thanks”.
If you’d like to learn more about my interactive online program ‘Business Writing That Works’, and how I can help you and your team better your business writing, then visit my ShirleyTaylorVT website and let’s get started!
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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.