How to Tailor your Writing for Maximum Impact
If you're either an employee or an entrepreneur , basic skills in business writing can save you a large amount of time in your day-to-day life.
- Effective Subject Headings
- Reducing Complexity
- Eliminating Back and Forth (In Emails)
- Filtering Email Receipts
By learning and implementing these four key areas you can make a greater impact with your writing.
Effective Subject Headings
Applicable to both emails and short reports, your subject headings need to be concise and clearly explain the point. This is the first thing your recipients/audience will see, and the level to which they filter your information will be decided by the impact you make. Think of your subject lines as your written first impression. These headings should summarise the key message of the email or section of your report, and allow the reader to decide if the information contained is relevant to them and deserves their time.
For Report Writing: Think - what does this section contain? Guard against being to concise and not transferring enough information. For example, an opening title of "Introduction" does not convey enough information to allow the reader to quickly grasp the point. On the other hand, "Introduction to the review of company sales figures for the year ended December 2013" is far too info-dense a title. A happy medium would be "Introduction to 2013 Sales Review". Consider at this point what your readers already know. In the case of the above, readers would likely have little need for the words "company" or "figures".
For Emails: Your email should, in most cases, start with a phrase like "For Action", "No Action Required", "Please Forward to X" or similar. In your email subject line be sure to tell the recipient what the email is about and what action they need to take. By allowing them to use this information easily you will cut the chances that they will filter out your email.
There is a tendency in many areas of business writing for authors of reports or emails to over complicate their message in order to make it sound more intelligent. In reality, you will become more productive and impress your peers to a greater extent if you can effectively communicate your message in as few words as possible. There are a few tips to practice here:
- Don't self correct as you write - go back and check what you have written upon completion. Allow your mind to get down the information that you are trying to convey in a natural way before attempting to change your script to suit the audience you are presenting to.
- Speak aloud and record your message - this holds us back from using complex and difficult to understand words that could confuse our readers.
- Would you understand the message? - Put yourself in your readers shoes. Would you understand what you are being told?
While reducing the complexity of your business writing may go against years of teaching, going back to basics can have a great effect on your productivity and impact. If your situation calls for more expressive language, go back through the text afterwards and add in the words you feel are called for, remembering the reader as much as possible.
Eliminating Back and Forth
There is most definitely a time and a place for language such as "I hope you are well" and "How was your weekend?" in email conversations, but in many cases this causes needless back and forth that wastes time and does not add any value to the conversation. In many cases this can detract from the information you are trying to convey or the task you wish to get completed. Consider the below:
Mr A: Hello X, I hope you are well. How was your weekend? *Content* Thanks, Mr A
Mrs X: Hello A, I am well thank you. I hope you are also well. My weekend was filled with unnecessary information. How was your weekend? *Response* Thanks, Mrs X
Mr A: Hello X, I'm glad you are well, I am also well thank you....
And so on and so forth, you get the point. By creating this needless distraction from the subject the content can become lost amid lines and lines of pleasantries that are unneeded and add no value. If you wish to express your gratitude, add "Your help with this is much appreciated" or similar at the end of your message. If you want to make a connection with someone who could be useful to you in the future, your networking will have to go further than pleasantries in an email. For now focus on making an impact by getting to the point in your emails.
Filtering Email Receipts
Filtering out email is somewhat of an art. Email is both an incredibly useful tool and the bane of many businesspeople's lives. The day by day flood of emails into our personal and business email accounts can become almost unmanageable and is a serious distraction from our daily work. Filtering the email which you choose to read and reply to can not only save you time and your finite attention, but can also train people to copy your style of business writing; getting to the point without any messing around.
You can begin by switching off your email application on your computer, and doing the same with your auto-push setting on your phone. Set specific times for checking both work and personal emails. Unsubscribe to any services that you are genuinely not gaining value from. Utilise the subject bar to help decide whether to read an email. It is likely, after all, that if a required action is hidden within a complex and info-dense email many people will miss the action required, and a follow-up email will be sent out. While it is worth scanning emails for importance and not blocking them out completely, time and efficiency will be gained by reducing your reliance on email - this will also teach you the format in which you prefer to receive emails. Generally this will be less info-dense and with a clear action plan! Practice what you preach and script your emails as in tip 3 (above).
There are many more tips that are available on the web to help you improve your business writing. Hopefully, the above will allow you to quickly put into place the skills needed to improve efficiency for yourself and communicate your messages in emails and short reports with greater ease!