I don’t know if you, like me, are mortified by the way people write – or shall I say attempt to write – these days. It seems perfectly acceptable to misspell names, to abbreviate words into The Dreaded Text Speak, and then to sign off with an obligatory emoji.
My newspaper editors of old are thrashing about furiously in their graves ☹ (Emoji intended!)
I get it that we are all drowning in information overload, trying desperately to break through the surface of the bubbling maelstrom of messages and the plethora of news that comes at us every day at the speed of a bullet train.
But that is simply NO excuse.
Written communication that is shoddy, laborious sentences that waffle on endlessly and are pock-marked with ludicrous spelling errors don’t just reflect badly on the writer, but on the organisation itself.
After all, who wants to do business with people incapable of stringing a sentence together? If someone hasn’t got the time, the inclination or the self-respect to check through an email before stabbing the send button, then frankly I don’t have the time, the inclination or the interest to engage with this individual.
And it unfortunately doesn’t end there. I shudder over my Sunday morning breakfast when I read the newspaper. Front page apologies seem de rigeur these days. In fact, almost every second week there is an apology of sort tucked somewhere in the folds of print.
I know I’m an ageing ex newspaper hound, but an apology over inadequate fact-checking, or the misspelling of someone important’s name could be admissible offence. And copywriting was all the better for it. We made the effort. We took care.
But that is then, and this is now. Today’s ubiquity of electronic communication is forcing everyone, from accountants to IT interns, to write. In a world drowning in information overload, it has become imperative to master the tools and techniques of short, clear and concise communication.
In fact, never before have the words ‘say what you mean – mean what you say’ been more applicable as they are today.
As “business talk” develops into more direct, real and sincere communication, so too must business writing become easy, up-front, punchy and persuasive. Simple is the new sexy.
But written communication – as with any communication – also needs to be geared towards your specific audience. You are writing for your readers. Consider them. It’s no point penning an email that completely misses the mark of its true intent.
Whether it is to communicate with fellow colleagues, to ensure that you have a paper trail of your work, or to touch base with your clients – the ugly truth is that if you don’t write what you mean, your relationship with the person on the other end of the screen might be in jeopardy.
I’ve had the privilege of training people at almost every side of the writing wheel, from journalists and editors, to executives and marketing specialists, and I see more and more professionals struggle with the basics of business writing. For some, it is only a few foundational bricks that are missing. For others, the communication chasm yawns ever wider.
Language barriers, a faulty fingertip, the tired excuse of a creativity block, or the fact that we are all trapped in a rat race with no time to spare… Enough with the excuses!
Whatever the reason, don’t let a wrong word, an unstructured sentence, a misused punctuation mark, or a hasty mistake slander your reputation or hinder your potential.
Here’s just some of what’s missing in today’s fast-paced electronic business writing environment:
- The human component
- Writing that paints a picture
- Structured content and copy flow
- Messages matched with an audience. No square pegs in round holes.
- Clear and concise messaging
- Riveting introductions
- Proper grammar and spelling
- Greetings and sign-offs
- Character. Your authenticity should reflect in your writing.
- The proper punctuation
- And – dare I say it – copy that is checked (at least once) before it is sent
Many of us may rely on autocorrect, spell-checks, Grammarly and many other smart programs to fix our writing. I loathe them all! They make us bone idle. And then what must be asked is to what extent can we blame these ‘quick fixes’ for communication that entirely misses its mark?
Apps may be able to help with the basics, but it’s you and you alone who knows what you are trying to communicate.
So make the effort. Effort, in most things, is what makes all the difference.
Take it from an experienced writing skills trainer – you are never too old to learn something you thought you already knew.