My number one tip for business writing is: THINK of your READER! That sums up the advice from my best and hardest business writing professor ever — Dr. Fiona Barnes from the University of Florida MBA program (insert shameless GO GATOR plug here!). I apologize if I am not using all her classroom points, but here goes my summary for improving business email writing. Take note!
- Use the subject line.
- Front load the email with the topic and action items requested.
- Be brief, brief, brief and brief again (Get it?).
- Use bullet points highlighting important items.
Don’t write a huge block of black-and-white text and expect someone to open it and think, “Oh. Great. Look, I have an hour of reading ahead of me.” You won’t get it read until the end of the day if at all. I once managed a team of consultants one of whom would send me daily emails demanding attention and action for the following day. The problem was that the emails were pages long, unorganized and did not state what action was being requested. Typically, I ignored the emails until late in the evening when I felt I had time to sort through the text. Sometimes, I would not read them for days. Don’t do this to your reader!
Parse words, check grammar and spelling, and delete unnecessary sentiments. It has been attributed to Mark Twain, but was probably borrowed from Blaise Pascal, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” Save your reader his time and he will be grateful!
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