Business writing without the jitters – 2 (Don’ts of effective writing)

crumpled paper

Martin, Finley and Ward in “Effective Communication on the Job” give some don’ts  in effective business writing:

  1. Don’t beg.  You are not asking for a handout.  So don’t beg.  You are not a king, so don’t write “We” unless you’re speaking for your company or a group.  Don’t state, you’re not handing down a Supreme Court decision.  Don’t tell somebody his letter is in your hands or on your desk or on the screen before you.  He doesn’t care where it is as long as you have read it.  And he does want you to read, not to duly note it.
  2. Don’t tighten up. Stiffness is alright in an upper lip, but in a letter it makes your words read like a picket fence.  Be relaxed when you write and don’t try to translate your thoughts into strange words that are foreign to the way you ordinarily say things.
  3. Don’t send a crossword puzzle.  The reader is not interested in solving cryptograms.  To organize your material, keep in mind that a letter has a beginning, a middle and an end, and it is up to you to put the right things in the right place.
  4. Don’t be long-winded.  Keep the short story short and say what you have to say once.  You are a letter writer, not a revolver, so don’t be repetitious.
  5. Don’t write down.  You are not teaching school and your reader is not necessarily ignorant.  The condescending letter is hardly likely to win friends nor influence people.
  6. Don’t bully.  Never get tough in a letter.  Spoken words vanish into air but what you put down on paper sticks around longer than a three-year mortgage.
  7. Don’t be rude.  Abrupt, curt letters annoy even though you may not have intended to be discourteous  Always read your letters over before sending them and try to put yourself in the place of the recipient.  Ask:  How would I like it if I got a letter like this?
  8. Don’t climb on a platform.  You are writing a letter, not preaching or arguing from a soapbox.  You want the reader to meet your mind, not study your ultimatums.  Keep away from phrases like “we insist,” “unless we hear from you,” “or you are put to notice” unless these are very very warranted.

Using the ideas discussed here, you can take a step toward better writing.

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