Business and Communication Skills
Close-up picture of hands writing in the business dairy.

Business and Communication Skills

Being able to communicate effectively is the most important of all life skills. Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another.

Writing well is one of the most important skills you can learn for success in the business world. Knowing how to write well allows you to deliver your ideas with the power they deserve.

Business writing is a type of professional communication—such as memos, reports, and emails—used to communicate with internal or external audiences.

You probably write on the job all the time: proposals to clients, memos to senior executives, a constant flow of emails to colleagues. But how can you ensure that your writing is as clear and effective as possible? How do you make your communications stand out?

HBR Guide to Better Business Writing by Bryan A. Garner offers help for those who have fallen into the trap of turgid, jargon-filled business writing. The book gives direct, clear instruction on how to hone your business writing and help purge your prose of the clichéd jargon

Understand the reason for writing:  Be clear about your objectives, including the audience you’re addressing and the goal you want to achieve. State the goal convincingly in each sentence of your prose.

Know your audience: Know that no one has time to waste. Get to the point quickly, focus on what’s relevant and use a tone that fits your audience.

Pen your first draft: Garner says writing preparation can involve four different processes he calls Madman, Architect, Carpenter, and Judge. The Madman does the research, the Architect organizes the material, the Carpenter writes the first draft and the Judge edits and tightens.

Proofread: Garner offers a series of questions you should ask yourself when going over your piece: Have I told the truth? Have I said all that I need to say? Have I been fair and diplomatic? Do I have a clear, concise opening? Have I proved my points with specifics? Have I avoided lame repetition? Do I close my piece clearly with prose that sounds fresh? As for editing, he says writers should ask themselves whether it’s possible to save words, hone phrasing, make the piece more interesting, and make the sentences flow.

Illustrate your points: All good writing instruction repeats this refrain: Show, don’t tell. In other words, illustrate your points with specifics.

Do not waste words: Garner offers ways to trim wordy passages. Delete prepositions, especially “of.” For example, change April of 2013 to April 2013. Replace words ending in “ion” with verbs; Change “provided protection” to “protected.” Get rid of filler like “in terms of.”

Don’t use business-speak:  Stay away from trite expressions that makes reference to a word or phrase  like “mission-critical,” and “think outside the box” and words like “leverage” and “impact.” Though it can be useful to be trite, only if you do it thoughtfully, be aware that the expression is overused and you’re choosing it for that reason. The most important lesson here: be direct and thoughtful.

Always use the right tone: Avoid stuffiness by using contractions. Vary the length and structure of your sentences so the reader doesn’t think your piece was written by a robot. Do use courtesies like “thank you” and “we appreciate,” and personal pronouns instead of formal language like “the decedent.” Also, lose the sarcasm. Do write as though you’re talking to the person face-to-face.

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