Learn to Talk on Paper: The Art of Effective Business Writing
Rudolf Flesch, a specialist in writing skills,
ran classes for over thirty years for civil
servants, lawyers, bankers and the like, on writing
Two tips he stressed over and over again in his classes.
The first: move heaven and earth to wean yourself from
the inhibitions and nervous habits that your
schoolteachers, bless 'em, have bequeathed to you.
Leave no stone unturned to rid yourself of the awkward,
stilted and artificial writing styles that have been
reinforced daily since your early childhood.
The second: when you write a letter or the like - even if
it's a business letter you'd normally place in the "highly
formal" category - imagine that the addressee were
sitting right there, on the other side of your desk.
Relax. If you really believed the recipient was with you in the
room, you would never have the effrontery to begin with
"please be advised" or "we wish to inform you".
Incidentally, I've a confession to make. I'm a fairly experienced
writer, but time and time again, I find myself committing
the very offences that would make Rudolf Flesch cringe.
I'm a sinner! But then - I am aware of it. I try to catch myself in the act.
And when I succeed, I'm pretty ruthless with myself.
When Flesch says you should imagine the person you're writing to you is
right there with you in the room, it doesn't mean that informality is
appropriate for all categories of written documents.
But more often than not,
it's regarded today as a sign of professionalism, rather than the
More importantly, it's far more effective, as we'll see.
And whichever way you look at it, effective communication is the name of the game!
Incidentally, you'll notice that I said we spoke about...
rather than we wrote about.
I can't see you as I write. All I can
see is my monitor and it's not much of a conversationalist. All the same,
I'm using talking words all the time.
I recall my school days in South Africa, round about half a
century ago. At the end of every term, we wrote exams, and one
paper was always called "English Composition."
From the lowest grade to the highest, the format was about the
same. There were generally two questions: The first would begin:
"Write an essay of about 500 words on one of the following
topics..." The second would be the same, with "letter"
substituted for "essay".
Between examinations, the teachers would drum a multitude of
rules into our impressionable heads, always accompanied by grim
warnings about the terrible consequences of non-compliance! Many
of these rules directly contradict what I'm telling you to do
Have you ever taken a course in public speaking?
When you do a public speaking course, you don't hear much
about grammar and vocabulary. Instead you learn not to be embarrassed,
to overcome your inhibitions, to speak without a prepared script
and to reach out to the audience in front of you.
We're not saying that good grammar and such things aren't
important in writing. They're very important.
But they're not the
essence. In some ways, writing is so much harder than public
speaking, because your audience isn't right there in front of
you. But the object of the whole exercise is to break through the
invisible barrier that separates writer and reader.
Notice that question I asked three paragraphs ago? Of course,
this is one of the tricks we use to tear down that very barrier.
I could have saved a lot of words by leading right in with:
"Those who have taken public speaking course know that..."
But a question has a more intimate, personal ring. With a bit of luck,
I'll even make you feel I'm talking directly to YOU. Why? Because
a person normally peppers his everyday conversation with millions
For precisely the same reason, this article, is full of word contractions. That is to say: I
write "they're" rather than "they are";
"I'll" and not "I will."
Certainly sounds more cozy, you will -oops, you'll admit.
"Yes," you may well protest, "let's assume I'm
a bank manager or
the like? Can I really use that style in writing to my clients?
And oh my gosh - what if I'm some kind of government official?"
(We won't talk of lawyers for the moment - they're a special
class of headache, which we'll have to deal with separately.)
The rejoinder is: "Sure, you can." When you write a
letter, you want to make your point quickly and effectively.
Further, you're looking for a response: you want action. An
informal style, rather than one of prim and proper
conventionality, is more likely to do the trick.
For all that, you could ask me a very strong question:
"This makes sense when you want to be friendly: when you're
looking to get the business of a potential customer, or to
retain that of an existing one.But what if I deliberately need a
stiff and formal tone, as when I'm writing a letter of demand to
We can do no better than to quote an example direct from
Flesch. Compare these two extracts:
"It is imperative that you submit the above amount within
days. Failure on your part to comply may result in legal action
at your expense."
"If you don't pay this amount within five days, we'll
action at your expense."
Which of these two versions is more likely to startle the
hapless recipient out of his wits?
You be the judge!
Azriel Winnett is creator of Hodu.com - Your Communication Skills Portal. This popular website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene. New articles added almost daily.
Creating a Writing Space
It's important to have a space set aside in your home for writing. It can be a big cushion in a corner of your closet with a notebook and pen, if that's all you have room for, or perhaps the back seat of your car because that's the only place you can get some peace and quiet, but it should be all yours, waiting for you whenever it's time to write.
Plotting Problems - Episodic Writing
The rejection letter says: "Your story, on the surface, appears to be well-told and has appealing characters. However, the writing is episodic; the story lacks direction.
Top 10 Tips to Complete a Creative Writing Project Without Losing Your Creativity
Have you ever started a creative writing project with great excitement, only to have your interest dwindle as the process, itself, interfere with your creativity? How do you keep the momentum going and continue to enjoy the creative process? Follow these tips for high creativity, fun and success!1. Create a writing environment that inspires you.
The Write Habit: How to Strengthen Your Writing Muscle
Writing is a muscle that needs exercise to stay in shape.I realized how true that saying is when I took what I called "a well-earned break" after I finished my first novel.
The Daily Rite
If you want to be a writer, then you must write - you must write something every day.If possible, have an established time to write every day.
Before You Write Your Book, Organize Its Parts - Part 2
If you are a serious writer who wants to publish and sell books and informational products, you need to be able to find all of its parts in a minute or less. Filing only the important parts of your book will yield fast-writing your book.
Applying KISS Principle in Writing
I have added a new word to my vocabulary. Logorrhea.
Writing Tips for your Journey
Tips for your writing journeySo, you'd like to be a writer? Congrats! Writing not only is a great way to express yourself, but can provide an income. Keep in mind not all writers make a fortune, some still cant quit their day job.
Overcome Writers Block with Snake Dancing
Writer's block! Even columnist Dave Berry has it. He admits that at least 30 times a day when writing his humor column, he gets up from his computer to sip his Pepsi to divert his attention when he can't think of what to write.
Does Your Fight Scene Pack a Punch?
Long ago, movie directors mastered the technique of creating a convincing fight scene. Bodies crash to the floor.
How To Write A Newsletter
In order to be successful with a newsletter, specialize in a subject not adequately covered in existing newsletters. A subject which you can give more, or better information on.
Writing Made Them Rich #5: Peter Mayle
Peter Mayle was born in England in 1939.His fascination with France began at the age ofseventeen when, as the 'lowliest trainee' in Shell, hewas instructed to accompany his boss - a Mr.
6 Ways to Jump-Start Your Writing Day
1. PLAY A GAME LIKE SOLITAIRE.
What You May Not Learn In College... (Part Two)
If you become a writer for any publication, private business, public entity, non-profit organization and/or large corporation that employs more than one editor, you may find that your job description, expected contributions, desired writing style and similar "guidelines" for your position - are subject to change daily/weekly/unpredictably - according to each editor's mood and/or personal preferences.
It takes time, but eventually you will learn how to satisfy everyone to the best of your ability.
That Cute Lil Ol Apostrophe
Have you ever had a student write to tell you they've achieved Grade A's at exams? I have, and one of them was a grade A in English!The apostrophe seems to be the most misunderstood punctuation mark in the English language, and yet its use is really very simple.There's really only one rule: an apostrophe is used to replace one or more missing letters.
Time to Write
SO YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?Many people have entertained the idea of being a writer. They feel the passion to write.
Memoir Writing Help, Memoir Writing Ideas
You might not need any memoir writing help, per se, as you know your past and you know quite well how to write, thank you. You might instead just need someone to inspire you, motivate you, give you a nudge--with some memoir writing ideas.
Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 5 of 6
PASSED, PASTPassed is the past tense of pass. Past means a time that has gone.
Save Time When You Write
I'm in the process of moving from one computer to another, and one of the things I really miss so far is a good keystroke macro program.That's a program, a communication technology, that allows you to trigger long strings of text, including names and email addresses, with just a couple of keystrokes.
Message to Online Writers: Dont Give Up On A Good Idea
The writing community is a strong one, with many new "members" joining daily. All theser writers are finding or looking for their particular niches.