Over my career I have read many emails, letters and webpages that make no sense, are confusing, or are repetitive and cluttered.
I wonder if it’s because no one is taught at school or university to write for business? There are several key differences between writing in an educational environment and effective business writing.
For many years in our schools, students were not taught grammar or punctuation. This did not help. In fact, it has hindered students in their writing. As a result, there is a generation of young adults who lack confidence in their ability to write well in their jobs.
A common occurrence is to omit commas and apostrophes. This can be embarrassing for both the writer and their business and always seems unprofessional. It also clouds what they are trying to say. In addition, bosses complain about the waste of their time in having to constantly correct such errors.
Another problem is that many emails and other documents are not properly planned. Again I wonder if this skill is lacking in people’s education?
All of this leads to business writing often being cumbersome, boring and unreadable. Writers seem to ramble on and on thinking that the more they write, the more knowledgeable they will appear. When, in fact, the less said the better – as long as what is said is clear and concise.
Often business documents are full of solid paragraphs with long sentences. Studies show that if little white space is used, the reader takes longer to read these documents and comprehension is reduced. Long sentences often lose the thread of what the writer is trying to say and the sentence has to be re-read. This is both tedious and a waste of time.
The very sight of long, solid paragraphs puts readers off reading the article or report. They often will just read the first sentence, or maybe even half a sentence, and avoid the rest.
As we know from many aspects of life, first impressions are vital. Poor business writing creates a poor image of both the writer and the business. A reader making adverse judgements about a document may sub-consciously think negatively about the business.
The question is: can you – can anyone, learn to write effectively for business? I believe you can. The first step is to ask yourself if you have a problem and if you would like to improve. If the answer is ‘yes’, then the question becomes what training is available to me?
You need to find a training course that will:
- Help you plan your business document
- Give you the tools for good grammar and punctuation
- Show you how to eliminate unnecessary words or padding
- Allow you to work with and transform your own business documents
- Give you feedback as you go
- Provide you with useful reference materials
- Help you become a better business communicator
Overall, poor written communication in business has become commonplace. The effect on your business or organisation can be dire. It may also adversely affect your career.
But the good news is that you do not need to stay ‘stuck’ with poor skills. With the right training, it is a problem that can be effectively addressed.