Friday, May 9, 2014

Making Email Writing Easier

You read and write email on the job daily, do you? And you wish it took less time and that your emails were better written at the same time?

Well, there is a way. FOLLOW A TEMPLATE.

Now templates may vary depending on the type of email required. However, there is one basic format which should work much of the time.
  1. Start with your main purpose in writing. Even if there are a few things you're working on you can either group them together as a single objective or you can select the most important of the lot and indicate that as your reason for writing. "I'm writing to..."
  2. In a second paragraph you include all the details relevant to the topic introduced as your purpose in writing. It is also good, if possible, to list those details in bullet points.
  3. Next, if there is anything that you or the reader needs to do in connection with the topic stated, then you spell it out here in one or two sentences.
  4. You're nearly done now. All that is left is a pleasant close. Often the action statement in point three can serve as the complimentary close as well.
So, here goes a brief email to my online audience:

Hello readers,

I'm writing to leave you all with a fast and easy way to farm out your routine emails.

Once you've intimated your purpose in a line or two, add any key details here in the second paragraph. Keep things short and sweet by leaving out any extraneous details.

Now, if you find these tips useful, just drop me a line. Or, you can post your comments in the comment box.

In any event, keep reading and learn to enjoy all those business writing tasks.

Cheers all,

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Writer's Block

What do you do when you don’t know how to start… or how to go on?

This, of course, is a common challenge in any type of writing, not just in business writing. And it is not so much a question of how to write, but rather of how to get motivated.

In some cases the hesitation or procrastination in writing may be due to a feeling of being unprepared. Therefore, one way to combat that feeling is to prepare something. That is, start by crafting a structure, with topics or fields that you can begin to fill in later, without regard to how the whole body of text will flow or fit together.

One example to consider is the structure you find in reports. A formal report has a/an
  • title page
  • executive summary
  • table of contents
  • introduction
  • methods
  • findings
  • conclusion
  • recommendations
  • appendices
So, there you have your structure. When writer’s block sets in, you zero in on whatever section you are most comfortable with and start filling it in.

An outline created from scratch around your subject or topic will serve the same purpose. However, unlike the sections laid out in a formal report you will need to rely more on the particulars of the topic at hand. In any case, the way to circumvent writer’s block is to jump to a part of the writing task that you are comfortable with.

Miniature versions of writer’s block also happen when we simply get stuck on a word. What do you do then, other than stare at the screen? You could consult an online thesaurus. However, this often interrupts your chain of thought.

Well, what about that glass of water you were thinking you needed to drink, or that quick dash to the toilet your body is telling you it needs?  Perhaps there’s a pot on the stove that needs to be stirred. Or maybe you just need to get your bum off the chair for some blood circulation. Writer’s block affords you the perfect opportunity to do these things.

You can do these things while keeping your train of thought focused on your writing task, unlike when you begin searching online and quickly find yourself distracted. That elusive word is now likely to drift to the forefront of your mind, while you feel at the same time renewed energy to set fingers to the keyboard or pen to the pad.

In summary, to combat writer’s block…
  • follow or create an outline structure, which you can then fill in where and with what you feel most comfortable writing about in that moment
  • get up, quickly perform some pressing or needed task, while keeping your mind on your writing topic—this will not disturb your train of thought as might opening up a thesaurus or googling something online; quickly perform, however, is the operative phrase here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What is Business Writing?

In a word, email. We all do a lot of it. It is the most utilitarian of tasks, essential in business. But a single word on the topic will not suffice.

Business writing is first and foremost about communication within the business context, where the exchange of email predominates, but is joined by a host of other forms of written communication.

That said, business writing includes any and all forms of text composed within the realm of conducting business. The range of texts might be endless if one takes the time to prepare a thorough list. For anyone who works, you might start by listing every single sample of text you wrote during the course of your last workday. That list is likely to be extensive and quite eclectic in terms of the variety of text.

Below is my list...  a short, but random collection of texts.

What I wrote today in the context of work:
  1. explanatory notes on a whiteboard
  2. student reports (in rough draft form)
  3. responses to questions in a business tender document
  4. entries on a board member application
  5. email to a superior
Today was not an especially busy one in terms of writing, but interestingly some texts were of much more importance than others with regard to how well they needed to be written. In the list above, No. 3 was the most challenging in terms of expressing things just right. No. 2 was also important, even though in draft form. The final draft would be read by students and their sponsors eager to know how well the students had done.

In this sense, business writing is concerned with producing any number of text forms, all of which serve to communicate in some way to others. At the same time, there will also be some greater or lesser requirement to make sure what is written is done so optimally.

Good business writing, then, is about knowing when and how to achieve that optimal result.