By Goke Ilesanmi
It is necessary for business writing to be handled professionally. This is because when it is done properly, it will enhance corporate image and business among other benefits. But when it is done otherwise, the negative impacts can be massive. Therefore, to entrench a corporate culture of effective writing, organisations need to have a writing style guide as part of their corporate culture of excellence and consistency. The practice of good and collaborative writing boosts career, ensures business development and enhances profitability.
What is style? Style refers to the way in which something is done or an idea is expressed. A writing style consists of the particular words a writer uses (diction) and the manner in which those words are combined into sentences (syntax), paragraphs and complete messages.
It is noteworthy that a grammatically or technically correct message may still not achieve its objective (without proper application of style) in terms of clarity, unity and coherence, e.g., “Employees can be motivated in different ways. I discussed with the HR manager recently on the need to employ employees. We will still meet this month to discuss ways of moving forward in this organisation.”
This paragraph is grammatically and technically correct but lacks unity. That is, the idea of the topic/first sentence is not supported by those of the support sentences. This therefore negatively affects the style.
While everyone has his or her own style which though must be standard, you must ensure that your style is effective in the form of getting the best possible job/contract for you and/or achieving the intended purpose.
It is interesting that most readers determine the personality (character) of a writer from the writing style in business. A boring writing style implies a boring person. A lively and impressive writing style means a lively and impressive person that can be transacted business with.
NOTE: Stylistic boredom/monotony can manifest due to overuse of one type of sentence structure/length, use of clichés, jargons, one type of paragraph length, one type of grammatical voice, use of complex vocabulary in succession, common usage of words/lack of creative application of simple diction chosen, etc. Style also covers tone (which may be courteous, formal, conversational, informal, persuasive, etc).
Reality about writing style
There are contradictions and arguments by experts on what constitutes a simple or complex style. These basically show that stylistic simplicity or complexity is not definite. For instance, what constitutes a simple style to one person may be complex to another and vice versa.
Just as occasions often determine style and type of clothes we wear, so do some things affect style. So, the choice and embellishments of your writing style are often determined by the Recipient/Recipient Analysis; purpose of your writing (information, education, persuasion and motivation); type (business proposal, newspaper article, university thesis, etc.); level of relationship/cordiality (determining tone, etc.), etc.
David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon (eds.), communication experts say, a style of writing is simply its diction or syntax considered from two points of view: the purpose of the communication and the social relationship.
Simple and complex styles
To simplify this discourse, style is basically segmented into simple and complex. All other classifications of style (persuasive, loose, periodic, conversational, poetic, etc.,) are mere secondary classifications. In short, they are often used to reinforce, embellish or complement either simple or complex style.
As earlier said, the choice and effectiveness of either simple or complex style are determined by diction, syntax, dominant sentence structure, linguistic creativity level, paragraphing (unity and coherence), word order, grammatical voice, punctuation, ingredients of writing (clarity, conciseness, etc), tone, etc.
It is noteworthy that the fact that you are using a simple style does not mean you must adopt common usage of words. You can still be linguistically creative, distinctive yet standard with your simple style. For instance, the following are simple words combined and used creatively, “The storm of economic crisis has hit our economy”; “Bidding farewell to unemployment”, etc. Your simple style does not mean you should resort to use of clichés (idioms, etc.) which will make your simple style sound common and boring. Avoid jargons. Avoid Nigerianism (tout, dowry) and colloquialisms (slangs like “Naija” and others) in your business writing all in the name of simplicity. Use positive language not litotes to express positive expressions, e.g., “Remember to call me” not “Don’t forget to call me”, etc. Obey the rule of combination of words (parallelism) in your writing.
Note that style is perfected at the rewriting stage after you have done your research in prewriting stage and written your first draft in the writing stage. According to Scot Ober, a communication expert, while writing the first draft of a message, you should be more concerned with content than with style. Your major objective should be to get your ideas down in some form, without worrying about style and mechanics (spelling, punctuation, abbreviations, capitalisation, number expression, and word division.).
Joe LoCicero, a communication expert corroborates this thus, “At first, you may be more comfortable just getting your thoughts down in articulate sentences, using simple language. Then, take a stab at rewriting them using an enhanced vocabulary.”
So, if you prefer a simple style, you inject creativity into your language use and ensure proper word order, etc., at the level of rewriting to change your style from simple and common to simple yet creative, literate and standard one. But if you prefer to elevate your style from simple to complex, then, you raise the level of your simple diction or vocabulary to a high or grandiloquent one at the stage of rewriting.
The fact remains that the society accords recognition to simple, creative, literate and standard use of English Language, especially that English Language has become a non-material instrument of gauging people’s or organisations’ height on the socio-intellectual ladder.
To be continued
PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details.
GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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