In her informative article, “The 10 Most Important Business Writing Skills You Will Need By 2020,” Blogger Julie Ellis succinctly outlines the writing skills businesspeople need to master (to read the full text, click here.
I only disagree with her on two points: everyone, not just businesspeople, needs these skills, and the year 2020 is way off.
Of her ten points, which I have edited for length below, numbers one through five are points that writing instructors and readers in general have been demanding for centuries. Consider this: In 1664, the Royal Society of England set up a committee to consider how to encourage better use of the English language. Their recommendation was that writers should aim to achieve “a close, naked, natural way of speaking; positive expression; clear senses; a native easinesse, bringing all things as near the Mathematical plainnesse, as they can.” (Samuel Pepys, by Claire Tomalin, Chapter 17)
Ellis’s points one through five also read like a Cliff Notes version of the Plain Writing initiative which began some four decades ago. Here they are:
- Clear, concise, and simple prose
Long, complicated sentences with sophisticated vocabulary is “out.” No one has the time anymore to re-read content, in order to figure out what has actually been said. You will need to practice writing shorter sentences, containing only one thought. Your vocabulary, unless it must be technical in nature, will need to be at a high school level.
- Writing skills will not only include prose
No one will have time to pour through volumes of text and detailed explanations. The use of graphics to impart information will be critical and far more effective. You will need to be able to reduce lots of information and concepts into picture form.
- Grammar, spelling and punctuation will not be “thrown out”
Basic writing skills will still need to be in play. The person you are trying to impress with a sales pitch may be a “stickler” for good grammar and spelling. Fortunately, if you have never been really good at this, the tools, apps and services keep getting better.
- Prose writing will have to be broken up
People’s attention spans are shorter. If you want your stuff read from start to finish, you had better learn how to use headings, sub-headings, and bullet points.
- Writing for your audience
You have to know the intellectual and reading levels of the people who will be reading your stuff, and you will have to adjust your style and vocabulary accordingly. Being able to change your style for different audiences will be pretty critical, and it takes real skill.
People are inundated with so much content these days that they become very fickle. You will need to find unique ways to say the same things that others are saying—ways that are really engaging for your reader.
- Article and blog writing
These venues are here to stay, for this is how company brands are spread and customer loyalty is achieved. Your business blog will have to be chock full of wonderfully entertaining content that educates as well.
- Writing for social media
By 2020, you can expect many more social media sites that are just as popular as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Individuals who do not have the skill to grab attention with a few short phrases, with a couple of stunning facts, or with a great story will be losers on these platforms.
- Writing as video
Just as writing will continue to morph into graphics, it will also evolve into videos. Those who are skilled in creating compelling short videos that inform and educate will continue to expand their audiences.
- Business writing will not be dead
Yes, there will still be a need for reports, strategic plans, employee policy manuals and e-guides. But the trend toward simplicity and the use of graphics and videos will continue, and the skilled “writer” will be able to weave text, graphics, and media into coherent pieces that readers/viewers can absorb quickly and completely.
- Leonardo Da Vinci invented the scissors.
- Peanuts are one of the ingredients in dynamite.
- Maine is the only state whose name is just one syllable.
- Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.
- What do Americans call the @ symbol used in emails: little snail, monkey’s tail, at sign, little duck? (Trivia Answer: bottom of this page)
Word of the Month
salubrious • \suh-LOO-bree-us\ • adjective
1: favorable to or promoting health or well-being
“After sitting in business meetings all day, Keith suggested that everyone go for a long walk or participate in a similar salubrious activity.”
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SATisfy Your Curiosity
SAT Exam practice question: Choose the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
I found that the writer’s ideas were sufficiently ___ to make me bear with his ___ language.
- intriguing … skill with
- interesting … abuses of
- humble … mastery of
- shallow … errors in
- misguided … style of
(SAT Answer: bottom of this page)
The phrase a baker’s dozen dates to 1599, but the practice of adding a thirteenth loaf of bread to every dozen sold is much older. In 1266, England passed a law entitled the Assize of Bread and Ale. The law regulated the size and price of loaves of bread that were sold on the market. During years of good harvests, bakers could make more bread than they could sell locally, so they would sell the excess loaves to middlemen. But since the size and price were strictly regulated, middlemen could only make money if the bakers gave them a thirteenth, or vantage, loaf for each dozen. The extra loaf provided the profit for the middlemen.
Dr. Kevin Ryan's business-writing book is available on Amazon.com and qualifies for free shipping.
The key words are “sufficiently,” which indicates the listener’s positive response to the writer’s ideas, and “bear with,” which convey the listener’s negative feelings toward the writer’s language. Only “interesting…abuses of” provides a corresponding positive-negative relationship.
Fun Facts Answer
“at sign”; the French call it “little snail,” the Germans know it as “monkey’s tail,” and the Greeks call it “little duck”
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