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Below are some extracts from our Writing for Results manual.

Introduction 

There is much more to business writing than typing an email and pressing send, or to writing and disseminating a report.  

The task of writing business documents can be challenging. Poor communication can lead to major misunderstandings, causing problems for business. Having said this, it is possible to put over a clear message to your audience if you are careful, considerate and use a few effective tools, techniques and strategies. 

 

What your messages reveal about you and your company? 

In the context of business writing, there is pressure to communicate with a clear, concise message and a style thatconsiders the reader. When you are writing a business communication, you want to enhance your company’s image as well as your own. Writing that is sloppy, full of errors and/or unstructured may leave your audience with a negative impression of you and your employers. 

 

 

Notes: 

The Basics of Communication 

Your communication will be more successful if you apply some of the following rules, processes and strategies when writing. 

Highlight Benefits, not Features 

Features describe characteristics. Benefits relate more to feelings and experiences.Your reader is more likely to care about your message if they can relate it to what matters to them.Focusing on what matters to your audience as an individual will have more impact than sending a general message to a group. 

Identify the Purpose of your Writing 

 

Audience  

Analysing your audience will reduce nerves, provide focus and enhance clarity, ultimately making the task less daunting and more manageable. 

What do you know about your audience? 

  • Know who you want to communicate with 

  • Focus on your audience, not yourself 

  • What does your audience want to read? 

  • How are they likely to respond to what you have to say? 

 

Consider 

  • Age and gender 

  • Level of education 

  • Language 

  • Position in the organisation 

  • Background/likes/dislikes  

  • Strengths and weaknesses 

  • Knowledge of, and interest in, the communication 

  • Likely responses to your message 

Not allthe above will be relevant to every communication you make. 

Your audience will affect the way in which you write. For example, are you writing to your boss or responding to a complaint? An email to your boss is likely to be shorter and to the point.A response to a complaint will be longer and the tone much softer. 

Listening  

You can learn more about your audience by listening. Listening helps you to: 

  • Focus on the other person (try to avoid thinking of your response as they talk) 

  • Value the person you are listening to as an individual, so that you understand ‘where they’re coming from’,and why they are working or speaking as they are 

  • Understand the place the person is coming from;are they trying to sell something to customers? 

  • Develop a good relationship with them 

  • Discern who is interested and who is not (allowing you to concentrate on potential clients) 

  • Ask the right questions 

 

 

Questioning  

Use questions to obtain relevant and specific information about your audience. Express yourself according to whom you are writing.  

Types of Questions  

ClosedAnswered with Yes or No 

OpenProvidethe opportunity for fuller responses  

Begin with why, how, who, when, where, what? 

Allow respondent to produce more information  

FunnelBegin with general questions on a situation, then narrow them down to reach a conclusion 

ProbingTo clarify and gather additional information  

LeadingDirect respondent in a particular direction 

 

Analyse your Audience 

To get your message across, you need to understand your audience. This is more challenging when writing, as the usual clues available during face-to-face communication are missing.  

You can build a profile of your audience by asking the following or similar questions 

  • Name? 

  • Job title? 

  • Us and them - what’s our relationship? 

  • How receptive are they? 

  • What is their prior knowledge? 

  • What questions might they have? 

  • What are their priorities? 

  • What’s in It for Them? (WIIFT) 

Knowing, or anticipating information about your audience will help you to connect with them. 

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