Communicate well in today's workforce
Communicate your message in simple terms with correct style
“Can u pls send 2dayz $ rprt?”
“Can you please send today’s financial report?”
In our world of casual text-messaging with our buds, sometimes professionals forget that e-slang and shorthand have no place in the business world.
What you write reflects on your business, so inappropriate written business communications make the wrong – and sometimes costly – impression. Not only do you need to have the right message, but also you should present it correctly.
When representing your business in a written report, presentation or even e-mail, standard grammatical, spelling and punctuation rules apply. If you have forgotten them, look them up. (There are great online sources; try yourDictionary.com or Google it.)
Keep it simple
Writing correctly doesn’t mean your language must be stilted or stuffy. In fact, you can be most effective by writing the way you talk – simply, directly with action verbs and limited jargon, technical terms or acronyms.
If you have trouble simplifying a complex or lengthy message for a mass communication, imagine that you are telling the news to a close friend who knows nothing about your business – that will force you to make it short and simple. Try to organize it into three or four important talking points.
Write it the way you would tell it. Tell who, what, when, where and why. Cover the most important facts first, leaving superfluous information for the last paragraph. Then, if your reader doesn’t read it all, he won’t miss the most important part of your message.
- Keep it short. Words should be short, sentences should be short and paragraphs should be short. Business writing should not be like that for an English 101 theme or a research paper. Remember your reader is flooded with information, so keep yours to the point.
- Proofread carefully. Spell-checking may be a helpful start, but don’t depend on it to catch misused words, such as “there” for “their” or “you’re” for “your.” Try to read through it three times, with the goal of finding errors and reducing wordiness each time. Enlist a co-worker for a second look, if at all possible, because it is much easier it is to find errors in someone else’s writing than in your own.
- Use bullets. As shown here, bulleted information has a greater impact and is much easier to read than long, run-on sentences.
E-mail do’s and don’ts
You can improve your e-mail communication by following the general good-writing guidelines listed above. In addition, because e-mail is so quick and easy to use, it requires extra caution, such as:
-- Do respond quickly with respect, but don’t fire off a hot retort. Dictating a letter the old-fashioned way or at least taking time to run letterhead through a printer gave you time to cool off; resist the temptation now to respond too quickly in anger. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
-- Do remember e-mail provides an excellent filing and tracking system, but don’t forget that it is forwarded easily to unintended readers. In other words, don’t put anything in writing that you don’t want someone else to see.
-- Do respect the system, and don’t abuse it. Don’t overload your company’s IT system by sending attachments to users who don’t need it. Avoid the temptation to blanket everyone on your company list with jokes or greeting cards; not only will you look unprofessional and create a nightmare for your IT department, but also you will lose credibility and effectiveness if readers start deleting before reading.
-- Do pay close attention to the boxes at top, and don’t forward long strings of e-mails without realizing readers can see messages at the bottom of the string. Don’t fill in the “to” box until you have completed and proofread your e-mail; if you fill it in first and then hit “send” by mistake before you have finished, you may be embarrassed by an incomplete message. Make sure your subject line makes your reader want to open your message. And, do NOT hit “reply to all” unless you really want everyone on the list to read your message.
Consider a pro
Finally, in times of crisis or any time the communication load is too heavy for you, consider hiring a professional – full-time if needed, or contract by the job – to do it for you. Just as you may need an accountant to help with your books or a lawyer for contracts, you may find it money well spent to have your message carefully crafted.
Dona Rains is marketing director at Baptist Health Paducah. She previously served as the public relations coordinator at Paducah Public Schools and a writer and editor at The Paducah Sun.