A Few Good Reminders on How to Write Well
The following excerpt from “Good Writing Can Help You Succeed,” in Time magazine’s online business section, is a nice overview of tips that can help any business writer.
“We live in an era of sound bites and 140 character messages, but good writing still matters when it comes to the business world. Don’t think that good writing skills matter in this digital age of abbreviated texts and tweets? Consider a recent Grammarly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles. In the same 10-year period, professionals who received one to four promotions made 45 percent more grammatical errors than did professionals who were promoted six to nine times.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, manager or an employee aspiring to any of those positions, you need to know how to write effectively for business. Bad writing can have a wide-ranging, negative effect on your business, from creating a less-than-coherent business plan and hampering your efforts to attract investors, to communicating with employees, vendors and even your customers. ‘If you are a native English speaker and never learned the difference between it’s and its,’ Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover writes in a recent Harvard Business Review blog, ‘especially given access to Google, an employer might wonder what else you’ve failed to learn that might be useful.’ That quote could easily apply to entrepreneurs or small business owners seeking financial backing. Simply swap the word employer for investor.
In addition to the standard rules of grammar, these 10 tips—gathered from around the Web—can help you keep your business writing interesting and concise.
- Get to the point. Avoid phrases such as ‘The purpose of this report that I am submitting today is …’ and instead write ‘This report will …’
- Replace passive ‘to be’ verbs with lively, active words.
- Provide concrete, compelling examples to back up your statements.
- Use an organized story structure with a logical beginning, middle and end.
- Don’t let your sentences go on forever. Hint: lots of commas are a sign of trouble.
- Understand your reading audience. Peers, stakeholders and top execs each require a different tone and approach.
- Leave time for revisions. Always read a document thoroughly, and then set it aside. Read it again the next day, and then make any necessary adjustments.
- Don’t go crazy with fonts, boldface and italics. Your documents should be inviting and easy to read.
- And don’t go crazy with capitalization. For example, capitalize the proper name of a company, but not a reference to ‘our company.’
- Shoot for relaxed authenticity. For example, a judicious use of self-deprecating humor can help engage the audience.”
- A snail can sleep for three years.
- Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older.
- It’s possible to lead a cow up a set of stairs, but not down.
- The average life span of a Major League baseball is seven pitches.
- Which American poet was granted an appointment to West Point, but had to leave after two weeks for failing the grammar entrance exam: Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound?(Fun Facts Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Word of the Month
kudos • \KOO-dahss\ • noun
Kudos is not the plural of kudo. It is a singular noun that means: 1: fame given for an achievement; 2: renown resulting from a notable act; prestige.
“Keith deserved kudos for the way he handled the contentious press conference.”
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Select the pair that best expresses a relationship similar to that expressed in the original pair.
purse : lips
- bend : knee
- knit : brow
- grimace : eye
- speak : tongue
- stretch : neck
(SAT Answer: Scroll to the bottom.)
Sabotage comes from the French word saboter and ultimately from sabot, which is a wooden shoe. These shoes make a lot of noise when you walk in them, so saboter came to mean: to make a noise, to tramp on, to destroy, especially a piece of music. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the word was applied to the destruction of machinery in labor disputes as in: The weavers sabotaged the automated looms.
Dr. Kevin Ryan's business-writing book is available on Amazon.com and qualifies for free shipping.
To purse one’s lips is to contract them; to knit one’s brow is to contract it.
Fun Facts Answer
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