By Goke Ilesanmi
Last week, we said there are four different skills of communication, that is, listening, reading, speaking and writing. We advised that business writing, especially for external communication to customers, suppliers, investors, etc., should be professionally handled because when it is done properly, it will enhance corporate image, boost business, among others.
We said some principles are critical to effective business writing. These are conciseness, completeness, correctness, clarity, consideration, courtesy, etc. We discussed some of them. This week, we will examine the remaining.
Another fundamental of effective business writing is concreteness. Here, one needs to use definite and image-enhancing words instead of obscure ones. The tone of a business letter for instance, must be specific and active, especially when one is not writing a complaint letter that requires passive voice. It must sound personal and effective. It must be definite. Instead of saying: “Our products are always cheap”; say, “Prices of our small products range from N20,000 to N30,000”. Do not say “We shall attend to your request very soon”. Say “We shall attend to your request by Tuesday, next week”.
Sincerity is another essential of effective business writing. To achieve this, do not use exaggeration or unnecessary flattery. A tone of courtesy and sincerity builds goodwill for you and your organisation, while your message will achieve its objective. Do not say: “A company like ours will collapse within two hours if you delay our payment”. Say “If you pay your bill by the August 25 due date, you will maintain an excellent credit record with our firm and help our operations”.
Customers or readers are too intelligent to be deceived as they know when you are sincere. Avoid exaggeration through the use of too many modifiers or too strong modifiers and incredible expressions if you want to radiate tone of sincerity in your business writing. Do not say: “We can almost work ourselves to death just to satisfy you”. Say: “We appreciate your goodwill and have taken practical steps to ensure your satisfaction.”
Unity is also required to achieve effective business writing. Unity in a paragraph is achieved when the paragraph contains information that is directly related to the main idea (as contained in the topic sentence) and the information is presented in a logical order with brevity. At this analytical juncture, let us give examples of sentences that have and lack unity.
Example of unity: “Employees can be motivated in different ways. One of these is to give them sufficient salary. Another way is to allow them to go for further studies and/or training. They can also be motivated through transport allowance.”
Example of lack of unity: “Employees can be motivated in different ways. I discussed with the HR manager recently on the need to sanction errant employees. We still meet this month to discuss ways of moving forward in this organisation”.
Another fundamental of effective business writing is coherence. A paragraph radiates coherent when it contains sentences that are well integrated. Coherence is easily determined in a paragraph through effective use of transitional words such as “moreover”, “in addition”, “furthermore”, etc.; pronouns; repetition of key words and ideas; parallel structure that is, parallelism (agreeable combination of grammatical structures) also called “rule of combination”, etc.
Very close to courtesy is the need to use positive language. Positive language also builds goodwill like courtesy. But the two are not semantically-co-extensive, that is, not totally the same. Positive language goes beyond respect (courtesy) as this also involves using positive words in ideas and structure instead of using words that sound negative to communicate positive expressions. For instance, instead of saying, “We do not use sub-standard materials for our production”; say, “We always use best quality or very standard materials for our production”.
Advice to leaders
Most great and charismatic leaders are masters of communication. The fact must be stressed that corporate leaders must endeavour to make effective writing be part of their corporate culture, that is, a company-wide activity, a collective responsibility or a layer of responsibility just as it is done in journalism where a reporter will write a story, send it to his/her desk head after which the desk head will send it to the editor. Then the editor goes through and sends to sub-desk to go through and get back to him or her (the editor) for final approval. This is serious gate-keeping.
Corporate writing culture/style
To entrench a corporate culture of effective writing, organisations need to have regular language and communication training. As in journalism, they also need to have a style guide as part of their corporate culture of excellence and consistency. This is because the practice of good, collaborative writing makes the difference between great business and bad business; between loss and profitability.
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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