Writing Tips to Avoid Career Disaster
By Julie Miller
today’s information-crazed, e-mail driven global economy, how you
use this powerful, immediate, and addictive tool can mean the
difference between market leadership and upward mobility or business
and career disaster. These tips apply whether you write white
papers, RFPs, engagement letters or e-mails.
Therefore, before you hit “send,” consider this story. An accounting
firm had a twenty-year association with a manufacturing company. The
relationship’s longevity was grounded in the close relationship
between the CEO and the firm’s top CPA. When the accountant retired
from the firm, another employee took over the account. Her
introductory e-mail to the CEO began, “Hi Bob!” Upon receipt, the
client called and said, “Bob? I do not even know you! How dare you
assume we have a relationship? I am ‘Mr. Jones’ to you.” It was all
down hill from there; relationship, reputation and related services
nearly destroyed with two words. These time-honored tips that can
help prevent brand meltdown or career disaster.
one has the time to read long documents: Is research, data
analysis, critical thinking not important? Are people’s attention
spans shorter? Absolutely not! But people are on information
overload. They can only take in so much data at one sitting.
Learning how to synthesize information in a short, concise document
will go a long way to making you a valuable employee. It will also
make your customer grateful for your clear thinking.
Critical thinking equals success: Disciplining yourself to
concisely put your thoughts on paper does everyone a favor. First,
it forces you to extract the essence of your idea, plan or project,
thus providing valuable think time. As you tighten up the
document, you are compelled to work through your ideas. Second, it
makes you more valuable as an employee or as a supervisor. Sharp and
short memos, e-mails or reports that you generate will be read. Who
knows, even intangible results like respect can come from your
effective writing and thinking. Last, what you want to happen
will happen when your customer receives your document. Readable
and crystal-clear writing gets results.
client’s time is more precious than yours is: If you think you
work at warp speed, remember so do your customers! Many business
documents are wordy, disorganized, vague or slow to get to the
point. Writing crisply will make your documents stand out. If your
customers have to wade through worn out or weary sentences, you are
asking too much (twenty words maximum). If they have to reread your
writing to make sense of it, you are on thin ice. In addition, if
they are working too hard to read your document—formatting
helps—they will stop reading.
clear in your responses: Mention pertinent facts and information
that will specify exactly what you are writing about. Example: I
talked to them about it the other day, and they want to see the
other one before they make up their minds. How would you know
what this e-mail is about without threading or having specifics from
the body of the text? It should read: I talked to company A and
they want to see the RFP before they make a decision.
Actionable and informative subject lines save time: A recent
study found that by writing actionable and information subject lines
saved a corporation thousands of hours in time lost trying to
decipher how to categorize and/or respond to a message. Summarize
the message in the subject line to communicate your content. Repeat
the subject within the body of the e-mail to reinforce your message.
The reader reigns supreme: Sales people know this truism: If
you know your customer, you can deliver the goods. It is always
about your readers—their wants, needs, headaches, concerns—it is
never about you. Think about what is important to them in your
message. Then write it clearly and concisely.
Formatting increases readability: Make your messages easy on the
eye. Format your e-mails with white space, bullets, bolding,
headers, lists, and appropriate indents. San serif fonts (Arial,
Helvetica) are easier to read on the screen, while serif fonts
(Times Roman, Courier, Palatino) work better in lengthy documents.
Remember, it takes 25 percent more time to read something on screen
than on paper.
Proofread like crazy: No excuses for spelling, grammatical, and
factual errors in e-mail messages—each should be read several times
to ensure accuracy. Turn on the spell checker and use it. Important
messages should be printed out and read as hard copy.
Know when e-mail is not the appropriate vehicle: Though it’s
tempting to use e-mail to communicate bad news or criticism, this
non-confrontational approach is inappropriate. These issues need to
be addressed in person.
composed documents can have negative consequences that compromise
the bottom line of any growing business or personal brand and do not
deliver winning outcomes. Conversely, well-written messages can be a
powerful tool to reinforce and enhance valuable customer
relationships; solve urgent user problems; deliver information;
market products and services; earn market leadership; and
demonstrate authenticity, professionalism, and polish. Therefore,
customer satisfaction and loyalty will thrive and referrals for new
business will flow generously to your door.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and