Six Easy Steps to Organize Your Writing – Fast!

Is there a quick and easy way to organize your business writing? Of course! Here’s how to do it.

We’ve talked about where the most important information should go – whether it should be in the first paragraph, or in the last. The answer: The most important piece of information, the point of the piece, generally goes in the first paragraph. Let the reader know up front what the piece is about, so that if the first paragraph is all he or she reads, the reader will know, at least in general terms, what the piece is about, and, more importantly, whether, or what he or she is supposed to do with this information.

Even if the reader does not read the last paragraph with 100% attention, it can be helpful to reinforce the message from paragraph 1 in the final paragraph. So there we go with the “book ends.” The first paragraph and the last paragraph will both contain the most important information. And then you just fill in the space in between.

While it may be about that easy, there is a bit more to it than that:

  1. To write and organize the first paragraph, decide (a) what you want to tell your reader in that first paragraph; and then (b) include who (who did the action); what (what the action was); when; where; why; and how. This usually will be about a sentence, sometimes two. Example:

We have outgrown our Center City facilities, and need your help to find a new location that will support our current production standards.

Note that the who-what-when-where-why-how information in your first paragraph can be organized in any order. Experiment with variations, and notice how this technique – called syntax – can strengthen your writing. The “why” is frequently a good place to start, although you will find that the majority of the sentences you read frequently start with the “who-what.”

  1. Also note that if you can say it all in that first paragraph – not more than five lines – quit. If you have included the who-what-when-where-why-how in sufficient detail in that five lines or less, that’s all you need. You can write less, and say more, saving both your and your reader’s time this way.
  1. Next, list in any random order as the thoughts occur to you, a word or two to remind you what you want to talk about in this piece.
  1. Now, to organize your content, put the same number (“1,” “2,” “3,” and so on) in front of each of the listed items on the same subject, so that all of the items with a “1” in front of them will be on the same subject, all those marked “2,” will be on the same subject, and so on. This organizes your information so that you know what information will go in each paragraph.
  1. To organize your paragraphs, now that you know what information will go in each, select an organizational pattern, such as procedural, most important first, time sequence, or natural flow from the first paragraph. Number each “paragraph group” to put them in order.
  1. You are organized! You’ve already written your lead paragraph, you know what content will go into each of the following paragraphs. And you know what order the paragraphs will be in. All you have to do now is just put it together.

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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Need a Good Headline? (part 2)

In this post, let’s pick up from last week with five more types of headlines, and some words or phrases you can use or adapt. If you need a headline for your company newsletter articles, website posts, white papers, sales sheets, catalogs, product descriptions, or PowerPoint presentations, just for a few examples, I hope these will be useful thought starters. It will help to review sections 1 through 6a from last week, and today we’ll start from there:

6b. The self-interest headline is always a good one. What makes this one work – or not – depends on how well you know your readers, and how well you address their needs or wants. Also critical is how well you match the benefits of your product or service to solving their problem, or getting them what they need, or want. For example: How to Write the Novel that Will Make You Rich Note that you could add a “time” element, e.g., “in just one week.” Or a “how” element, e.g., “with this amazing new system.” Or a qualifying element, e.g., “whether you’re an experienced writer, or have never written a word for publication.” Some of these thoughts could be added to the headline, or they could become subheads. Longer headlines will work, as long as they pile on appropriate benefits for your reader, addressing his or her specific needs or wants. Note, too, that headlines will be written and re-written many times to polish them just the way they should be. You won’t get it polished-perfect the first time. Try it.

 

Write your Self-Interest headline below: ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

 

6c. You could try a headline that will “flag down the appropriate reader.” You don’t care if everyone in the company, or even in the whole world reads your headline (although it should be written so they could). You do care about those who have the issue you are solving.  That’s who you will appeal to. Again, know your reader. Who are you appealing to? For example: If You’re Having Trouble With the New XYZ Software, Here’s Help!  Notice that the reader you are “flagging down” is defined up front, and that it is virtually mandatory to add the benefit, or the “promise” in your headline, to grab the reader and move him or her into reading the information that follows. Be sure to deliver on the headline promise in that copy. Try it. Write your Flag Down the Reader headline below:

____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

 

6d. A label headline is just that – a label, and is certainly appropriate to “label” a catalog item, or even the entire catalog. Or for the headline on an informational brochure or handout, among its many other uses. For example: 27 Ways Ajax Technologies Solves Your Technology Issues  Notice that while it is not always possible to put a benefit into a label headline (think “Things to Do at Crater Lake,” or “Jones Brothers Widgets”) it helps! Also, using numbers provides substance and credibility. Try it. Write your Label headline below:

____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

 

6e. Try promising quick results. It’s likely no one you write to in the business situation wants to do anything that will eat up more of his or her time. So, for example: Cut Your Writing Time in Half! Try it. Write your Quick Results headline below: ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________

 

6f. Freestyle.

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Need a Good Headline?

Maybe you’ve been given the responsibility for producing a newsletter, or are writing a piece for your company’s newsletter, and need a headline for it.

Or maybe you’re writing a blogsite post. Or it could be a white paper. How about a sales sheet? A catalog item, or a Power Point presentation?

You may very well be writing any of a number of pieces on the job that require a headline. How do you come up with a “killer headline”?

Well, a “killer headline” admittedly takes great genius, and in some cases many weeks to come up with. But as for the rest of us, writing very good, and even excellent headlines relatively quickly is a skill that can be learned. And who knows – a “killer headline” may even sneak in from time to time!

Here’s how…

 

  1. Begin by thinking of the type of publication where this headline will appear: digital or print; commercial; in-house; company-specific; a sales piece (e.g., catalog item, sales sheet, sales letter); and the sort of subject matter it carries.
  1. Who is the most likely reader, and what is the problem you will solve for him or her? Remember you are writing to that person who needs to read what follows. What is most likely to catch his or her attention, and cause that reader to want to read more?
  1. Considering the reader and the type and “feel” of the publication, what is the most appropriate tone to use? Tone is the relationship the writer sets up, or reinforces, with the reader.

For some headlines, a play on words, or a humorous headline may work very well. For others, a simple “label” headline, clearly “labeling” what the piece is about, may be far more appropriate. Regular day-to-day business email subject lines often fall into this category. Think about the appropriateness of your headline, considering the tone and expectations of your organization, and “how we do things around here,” when writing for, and to, your organization, and its readers.

An email inviting employees to the company picnic, for example, will probably be a bit more light-hearted than, say, writing a “command performance” memo to employees to ensure their attendance at the annual meeting.

  1. Decide whether you are writing to inform (generally a “label” headline will be the safest, if not always the most interesting), or to persuade – frequently this involves “sales,” but not always.
  1. Next time you’re in the checkout line at the super market, read the headlines on the magazines displayed there. Do a bit of primary research. Make a note of which magazine headlines draw you in, the ones that make you want to learn more. What it is that makes those headlines “work”? No matter the subject of the headlines that appeal to you, most can still be adapted for your use.
  1. You’ll probably notice that many ideas will be floating around in your head, as you consider your headline while reading others. That’s good! You’ll get many of your headlines right there at the super market. Now, see if you can analyze your favorites by type, as you read the following “thought starters”:

a. Provocative headlines that generate curiosity. While this type of headline usually rates at, or near the top of the experts’ lists of favorite headlines, beware! This one is also arguably the toughest to make work, and may not be your best choice. It’s tough to write one that does not seem a bit amateurish, and perhaps a bit sophomoric as well. Not generally the right tone on the job.

A classic example of a provocative headline, still used in headline writing classes:

If a Fire Broke Out in Your Home Tonight, Could You Get Your Family Out in Time?

Take a minute right now, to draft a provocative headline for a piece you are writing:

_____________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________

And let’s leave it there for now. We’ll continue next week, with at least five more types of headlines, and a list of words and phrases you can use, or adapt.

See you then!

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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How Important are Teachers?

Think back a bit. Can you remember your favorite high school teacher? Especially the one who taught you how to value, enjoy, and use the English language? The one who may, or may not have been your English teacher?

I certainly remember mine. She was a dragon of a woman – all of 4’10”, and maybe 70 pounds on a good day – who struck terror into the hearts of those gargantuan football players, pierced each student to the very core with her sharp blue eyes – and by sheer dint of her will, taught us English! Well beyond retirement age, she had stayed on at my high school, almost as though the administration had forgotten there was anyone at all occupying her classroom. We definitely knew she was there.

And what a great teacher she was. How fortunate we were to have studied with her. She was fair. She gave simple, honest feedback so that you knew exactly what she was saying. She taught so that you had to understand her if you were paying any attention at all. And heaven help you if you were not!

Who was your favorite teacher? The one you really learned from, although he or she might not have been the funniest, the easiest grader, or the one who was not very strict about discipline in the classroom?

I had a great email from a reader recently, responding to the Use Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation to Demonstrate Professionalism and Build Credibility with Your Business Writing post. He said, “I could not agree more. My colleague is quick to spot grammatical errors – and lets me know if I’ve made one….”

Harry remembers Mr. Benjamin, his high school English teacher, who “…taught us that any verb with ‘re’ (e.g., report, refer, recycle) does not require ‘back’ (e.g., ‘Bill will report back to the major)….” He concludes with, “…just a peeve of mine based on the profound influence of a terrific sophomore English teacher.” A memorable teacher with lasting influence indeed.

Referring to a very bright, very accomplished radio host, Harry commented, “Intelligence notwithstanding, he stumbles over personal pronouns….Every time I hear him…I pause and wonder just a bit, ‘so how smart is he?’”

Concluding his very thought-provoking email, Harry added, “…accurate grammar…reflects a deep respect for one’s reader. Getting the grammar…right removes one barrier to…clarity – and it avoids confusing or annoying some of our most attentive readers.”

There you have it, my friends – not just from me, but from a highly successful veteran consultant as well.

So who was your favorite teacher – the one you really learned from? What did he or she say or do to “anchor” those lessons about writing in your mind? How can you help your co-workers, friends, and family to succeed on the job, or at school?

Let us hear from you! I look forward to sharing your comments.

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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How to Write a Blog Post that Gets Read

As I was thinking about this post, I remembered the professor who used a “shuffle the cards” exercise in his writing class. We were all so focused on giving good, clear instructions for shuffling cards, that we forgot the obvious step number one: “Start by obtaining a deck of cards.”

So, the obvious step number one in writing a blog post that gets read is, “Do you want to blog?” There are many good ways to pass along your information. Everything from phone calls, to text messages, to emails, and beyond.

If you have decided you want to write a blog, why?

There are different kinds of blogs. There are different ways to write a blog post, and different reasons for posting your content. You may want to express your feelings about a certain issue or happening. You may have a subject, or some ideas that you just need to share. Or, you may be supporting your organization or your business. Your blog site may be a personal one, or a business one. Next come the toughest questions:

What do you want each post on your blog site to achieve? What do you want your blog site overall to do for you? Are these goals consistent with each other?

With this in mind, what reading audience are you writing your posts for? Who will be interested in what you’re writing about? Are you speaking your language or theirs – both visually, and in words? Are the readers you’ve identified consistent with your reasons for blogging, and with what you want to achieve with your posts? Do they have the resources to do what you want them to do? How will you obtain, create, and maintain a good, appropriate mailing list?

When your medium (the blog posts); the type of content you want to write about, and the type of blog site you want to create; your reasons for writing it; the reader; the tone – the personal nature or the business nature of your blog site; and your expectations for the results you will get from each post, and from the blog site overall can be expected to work together, you’re ready to write.

At this point, with your strategy settled,

  1. Figure out what you want to write about with this post. To give you clarity and focus, a good place to start is by giving the post a rough title that says what you are posting about. Later on, you can rewrite that rough title into a headline for your post.
  1. When you write your introductory paragraph(s), appeal to the interests of your readers. Let them know what this post is about. Suggest how it will solve a problem they may be having.
  1. Organize and write your content for easy reading. The longer the post, the more important this becomes. Consider using sections, lists, and visual clues such as drawings, charts, and photos; type sizes and weights; perhaps videos, and colors to help your reader follow your conversation.
  1. Make it pretty. If it looks professional you gain credibility. Consistency in appearance helps your readers to recognize your company and your brand at first glance, reinforcing your other consistent activities.
  1. Give the post a final once-over. Revise your working title into an accurate, clear, appealing “grabber” to bring your readers in. Check for awkward spots, typos and inaccuracies. Now you’re ready to go!

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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Use Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation to Demonstrate Professionalism and Build Credibility With Your Business Writing

“Join Mary and I for a week in the Tropics,” the announcer said. And I wondered to myself how many listeners had heard the grammatical error. For that matter, how many would care? I would guess that few listeners would give it a second thought if they had heard it, and fewer still would care very much.

Bad grammar can get a bad reaction. In the business situation you will find many readers who do notice grammatical errors. To these readers you may look less than professional, and perhaps even less than credible, possibly to the point of making the difference between your getting the interview – or not. Or between your company or organization getting the opportunity to work with this customer or client – or not.

Using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation not only clarifies your meaning, but also provides the more professional appearance that builds confidence in you, or in the organization you represent. So what are some of the most common errors business writers make?

  1. To begin with, as you probably have already figured out, to be grammatically correct, the announcer should have said, “Join Mary and me for a week in the Tropics.” The easiest way I know to identify an error like this one is to cover up the first of the two words, e.g., “and I” so that the sentence then begins with “Join Mary…” which sounds fine. But when you block out “Mary and” the first part of that sentence becomes, “Join…I for a week in the Tropics,” you can easily hear the error

The same goes for a sentence with a prepositional phrase, e.g., “For you and I to make that decision, we’ll need more information.” Try blocking out “you and.” Then block out “and I.” Do you hear the difference?

  1. Another common error is to use the plural “their” to refer to a singular subject, e.g., “Each of the staff was asked for their opinion.” In this case, “their” should be replaced with “his or her,” if there were either both men and women on the staff, or if you don’t know the gender makeup of the staff. If the staff was composed of all women, you could say “her.” If the staff was made up of all men, you could say “his.” (Note: In the above example, what we are talking about is the singular “each.” The prepositional phrase “of the staff” is used to describe, or clarify “Each.”)
  1. Using an overly formal style, such as you might use for a term paper, thesis, or dissertation, can create confusion, and misunderstanding. Further, for your writing to be most effective, you will want to use an appropriate tone – the relationship the writer sets up or reinforces with the reader. How do you want the reader to think of you?

For the most part, if you want your business writing to be read, the best course for today’s reader is to write so that your business writing will be quick, comfortable reading.

  1. Finally for today, there is a plethora of words that are confused, or misused. We talk about many of them in our “Quick Tips” videos each week. Words like “fewer” (when you can count them), and “less” (things that are intangible, or hard to describe, e.g., “Harry spent less time using the new process,” or things you can measure, e.g., “There is less water in that cup than in this one.”

And words like “Its” vs. “It’s”; “affect” vs. “effect”; “their,” “there,” and “they’re” – the list goes on, and on, and on….

Send along your favorites, and let’s talk about them!

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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Business Email “Netiquette”

A combination of the words “network,” and “etiquette,” the term “netiquette” is basically what has been called good manners, applied to technology.

But while most of us can state a few of the universals (such as using all capital letters can be interpreted as shouting – don’t do it), which indeed is universally the case, there are distinct differences between email in business, emailing friends and family, and email in the school situation, to be considered.

For example, some authorities recommend using emoticons (smiley faces, frowning faces, and so on) as good shortcuts – in the informal situation. Most agree they should not be used in a business email. So let’s take look at six serious tips for effective business email netiquette.

  1. Many companies and organizations provide a sort of style manual with netiquette guidelines to clarify for their employees what is acceptable, and what is not, in their emails. In addition to matters of safety, basic courtesy, and privacy, these guidelines define how that company, or that organization wants to be represented to its various email audiences.
  1. Do not send to a list, or “reply all” without first knowing who is on that list, and removing anyone who does not need to receive a particular email. Time after time, in every discussion of effective email, the winner of the “ineffective award” is the practice of sending everything to everyone. A major time-waster within the organization, a source of irritation, and an invitation to the potential reader to delete without reading. This result is compounded when the writer becomes known for sending, or replying to all – whether they need the information, or not.
  1. Be careful of the tone you use. While you obviously are not about to correct a client, or a superior in your organization, avoid the temptation to “reply all” – especially when a co-worker makes a mistake – maybe a spelling error, using the wrong word, giving an overlong answer, or asking a “stupid question.” It’s important to maintain a teamwork mentality. Minor errors internally can often be ignored. If the error is more serious, discuss the issue privately, or with an email only to the individual involved.
  1. Don’t impose on your reader’s time. Keep your messages focused, and as short as possible. Many people use mobile devices and phones for email, in most cases making a long message difficult to read. Focus will help to get your email read, make your point, or provide information as quickly, and as briefly as possible.

Keep in mind that while the common abbreviations, e.g., LOL (laugh out loud), BTW (by the way), or BRB (be right back) are used to write faster, and shorten the message in an informal email, they are neither professional nor appropriate in the business situation.

  1. Avoid giving offense. Keep in mind, and be sensitive to the cultural and language differences among your readers. Use good taste certainly in the business situation, and also when writing to your other email readers. Avoid profanity, slang that could be misunderstood, and rude, hurtful, or judgmental comments. Things that may seem funny when spoken often come across the wrong way in email.
  1. Be professional. Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Spellchecker can be a good starting point, and your spelling, grammar, thesaurus, and dictionary tools are just a fingertip away. Be sure to do a final personal “eyeball check” before hitting “send.”

Additionally, use a professional email address for business correspondence. Avoid an address that could be construed as too informal, suggestive, or carry a possible negative connotation.

Please comment below, and share your favorite email pets and peeves!

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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Research: How Do You Find Out About Things?

Ask any kid from the age of four (maybe younger if he or she is really precocious), and that youngster will tell you, “On the Internet!”

It’s true. Probably the handiest, and easiest place to “find out about things” is on the Internet – on your computer, your phone, your tablet. The key? Discretion. What you “find out about things” may not always be useful. Unfortunately, much of what you find on the Internet may not be true (oh, but it makes a great story), may be highly biased, or may only be possible under limited circumstances. And many Internet researchers may not yet have the experience or background to evaluate what they are reading. Here are some tips:

  1. Who wrote it, and where did you find it? Another way to say, “consider the source.” Look beyond what was said. What was the purpose of the material you found? What was the writer trying to do with it? What does the writer want you to do with it? Why did he or she write it?
  2. Compare Sources. If various “reliable” sources provide the same information, ask yourself whether these sources share a particular persuasion, or whether they represent a variety of points of view. Compare sources representing a variety of points of view. If they say pretty much the same thing, it’s more likely to be accurate. Check it out.
  1. What was the original source? Who said it first, thought it first, or wrote about it first? Are you getting the information “firsthand,” or are you getting what someone said, thought, or wrote about it, later?
  1. Finally, ask. Ask a trusted authority in the field. Ask a teacher, librarian, or researcher. Ask yourself. Is this information reasonable, reliable, believable? Is the information accurate, current, complete? Does it make sense?

Let’s shift gears for a minute.

Before the Internet, we still had homework assignments, questions about how the world worked, and the need for specialized information. Where did we go? To the library. Remember your trips to the library? Remember what that library looked like, how it sounded, and the wonderful scent of years’ worth of books, magazines, and newspapers? Maybe you even had a carrel where you could hide away, and quietly bury yourself in your studies.

Or maybe you were in a main room, sharing a long table with other readers. And the research librarian was just over there. Anything you couldn’t find, he or she could.

To keep up, libraries have had to change gears too. If you haven’t been to your local branch lately, go. You’ll find that treasure of yesteryear, the research librarian, still in place, and still an invaluable resource.

Some libraries offer a live chat with a librarian 24/7. Others offer homework centers, a variety of research tools, and live one-to-one help in a variety of languages. You may also find academic support in most major subjects, real-time writing help, online tutoring, guidance for GED and citizenship tests, adult literacy programs, and back-to-school prep for adults. There are social activities, room rentals, and “meet the author” meetings. Tours, special events, and free admissions to local and regional points of historic and artistic interest.

Your library doesn’t have the material you need? No problem. Most libraries borrow back and forth from others. In some cases worldwide. If they don’t have it, they can get it for you. Many libraries offer books that can be downloaded on your mobile device, or transferred from your computer to your e-book reader or MP3 player. There are special programs and activities for hobbyists, and for children, teens, and senior citizens. Outreach services for special populations – homebound, jails, non-English speakers.

So, how do you find out about things? The Internet, of course. And the public library.

 

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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Important Trend: Storytelling for Business Writing

It was almost buried in the speaker’s content. In fact, I wasn’t sure I had even heard it: what Shane Show, Chief Creative Officer for Contently, calls “The Biggest Business Skill of the Next Five Years.” Here’s what the speaker said,

“To explain the abstract, or complex, we need to use stories.”

And it hit me. That’s what we do with business writing all the time – we try to explain the abstract, or complex! But how often do we think about using a story to do it? Oh sure, we talk about telling stories, using testimonials, and getting quotes for marketing, sales, and advertising materials. And it works! Of course, that is business writing too – but for “regular” business writing? “Regular” business writing, like memos, instructions, reports?

I don’t think so – or at least not very often, if at all. Hardly ever. But why not?

And where to begin?

Where to begin? Have you ever had this experience: You are thinking very intensely about something – It could be an on-the-job challenge, a new software program, or even a paint color for your house. As you are thinking about it, you run into thoughts, ideas and comments about that “something” just about everywhere? Well that happened to me this morning. I flipped on the radio for the news, just to hear the tail end of an interview on who-knows-what subject. And the sentence I heard just before the sign-off was, “A story begins where you think it does.”

This will likely be best accomplished by tying into your reader’s needs, problems, or interests. And that will be the point where he or she starts to “hear” your story. The sooner you get to that point, the sooner you’ll pick up your reader, or your listener.

There has been quite a bit written about using stories in oral presentations, and for sales and marketing pieces. These longer three-part stories (setup/conflict/resolution, with your product, service, candidate, cause as hero) are frequently far more sophisticated than using a simple story in an instruction, a memo, or some other “regular” piece of business writing. But they are similar, in that each has a job. Each has a specific purpose to fulfill; a specific job to do. It may be the greatest story in the world. It may be your favorite party gambit. But in the business situation, it won’t fly unless it strongly and obviously supports the point you want to drive home.

So, day-to-day, how might you use stories in your regular business writing? Stories can be used for team building, to improve morale, to make an instruction clear, to get “buy-in” for a policy or process change, to gain trust, to enhance credibility, to relate with a customer issue, to connect in a positive way with the variety of contacts you have daily – the list goes on. Stories create a “tone” that can establish, or reinforce a relationship.

Here are four more specific story tactics you can use for your “regular” business writing.

Politicians use stories of people who have benefitted from their ideas, processes, or policies to gain votes. Sometimes these folks will tell their own stories, but more often, the politician tells the story – carefully crafted, of course! – for them. So can you.

You can let the reader “tell his or her own story” by starting a sentence with, “Has this ever happened to you…” or, “Do you remember a time when…” and letting the reader fill in the blanks, which is also effective to bring your point home.

Provide informal testimonials, or anecdotes, demonstrating a problem that was solved by the new policy, or maybe a process change, or by the new product, equipment, or software.

Tell a story about another employee, or perhaps better yet, your “reader as hero.” For example, for an instruction setup, or troubleshooting section, this could be as simple as “You’re (describe process) when (describe problem – what happens) so you (describe the action to take) and (describe result of their action).

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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Does Writing Really Matter?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself, in a moment of writer’s block frustration, what difference does it make if you can write well or not. More and more, writing well – conveying ideas clearly, concisely, convincingly – is becoming a rarity. And that’s not even considering the grammatical side of business writing.

Perhaps part of it is because email, the most common form of on-the-job writing, is a quick, often casually-approached process. There never seems to be the time to review an email for clarity, to tighten it up, or to polish those grammatical issues that seem so easy to forget, and are so frequently used that neither the writer nor the reader seems to notice them. And maybe that’s really the point.

But does writing really matter? I’ve got a book for you. If you haven’t read 1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann, read it. Discussing the Neolithic Revolution, the point, about 11,000 years ago, when a formerly nomadic middle-eastern people settled down in permanent villages and invented both farming and the tools and agrarian practices to make it possible, Mann says, “The Sumerians put these inventions together, added writing, and in the third millennium B.C. created the first great civilization.”

Mann adds that “Writing begins with counting….The bureaucrats were not intending to create writing….they were simply adding useful features as they became necessary….”

And those “useful features,” at first represented by stylized symbols, have morphed, perhaps for the same reasons, into today’s writing.

That was then. This is now. How important is writing today? And especially, how important is it to write well in the business situation? Perhaps the more important question is, “How much more effective could we be in the business situation if we could write better – correctly, strategically, clearly? Concisely and convincingly. Does it really matter in our jobs?”

Your business writing is one way you can give “free samples” to a prospective employer. The clarity of your writing is perceived as a clear indication of the clarity of your thinking. If nothing else, clear writing demonstrates how well you can communicate your thoughts to others. No matter how brilliant your thoughts, for others to benefit from them, they must be communicated effectively.

If writing to prospects and customers is, or becomes part of your job requirements, strong business writing skills are important not only to getting a job, but in being promoted within your organization once you have the job. Communicating well is often interpreted as proof of intelligence, professionalism, and attention to detail – critical qualities for increasingly important leadership roles. A recent Time magazine article quoted a Grammerly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles over a 10-year period that found, “…professionals who received one to four promotions made 45 percent more grammatical errors than did professionals who were promoted six to nine times….”

When you represent your organization to customers, clients, or prospects, not only will you communicate your message clearly, you must also project a credible professional image of your organization.

A few ideas: Get right to the point; use active verbs; organize logically; write for your reading audience; proofread; make your material look (and be!) easy to read.

Your on-the-job writing can increase your professionalism and demonstrate your credibility. Your clear, correct, concise writing skills significantly enhance both your professionalism and your credibility. Start with spell checker, and then do an additional check with your own eyes. Do it with every piece you write – from that email to that text, to that tweet. Consistently.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment, and let’s start a conversation!

 

Gail Tycer offers business writing workshops and presentations; executive coaching, consulting, writing, and editing services. Call Gail at 503/292-9681, or email gail@gailtycer.com to learn more.

If this blog post would be useful to your team, please forward it, or drop us an email, and we’ll send them next week’s post for you automatically.

We appreciate your inquiries and referrals.

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