Writing has always been imperative to communication in the business sector; however, it’s never been more important than now with the majority of companies working remotely. Written correspondence is taking center stage and it’s critical that your team understand how to write emails, business letters, and other forms of communication effectively.
Here are our top ten tips to get you started and how to dive deeper into improving your team’s written communication skills.
Before you start writing, take a few moments to think about the overall message you want to convey. Consider not only what you want to say specifically, but also how you want the tone and feel of the message to come across.
For example, if you're angry and don't want to write an angry email, take some time to sort out the most important points you want to make and sit down to write when you're in a less heated state of mind.
The first thing a business contact sees from your correspondence is usually the subject line of an email or the first line of a text. First impressions count, even over virtual spaces. Make sure your email headlines accomplish a few different things:
For example, think about which one of these emails you would most likely open or pay more attention to:
"Information I need on last week's project"
"Happy McClient -- IMPORTANT -- Need Meeting Notes From 1/5/21"
The latter uses the client's name so the email is easily sortable, it labels the urgency of the message, makes a specific request, and includes a date. It's possible that the recipient might not have to open the email at all to get its core information, which ideally is the case each time you compose a business email.
Even if you have a lot to say, chances are your audience isn't prepared to sit down and read a dissertation crammed into an email. Keep your business letters and other communication short and sweet and avoid digressing into anything off-topic.
You can also make your business correspondence easier to read and digest by spacing out your paragraphs and writing shorter sentences instead of lengthy ones. Use headlines, bold, italics, and highlighting where necessary to break up big blocks of text and call out important information.
Business communication should have a pleasant, polite tone without appealing to the reader's emotions. You can be friendly without being overly excited, and you can be polite without coming across as rude or unfriendly.
A good way to do this would be to pepper in positive language, avoid making accusatory statements, and leave the topic open to feedback and discussion. Ending an email with, "Thanks, and open to any feedback you have!" isn't overly enthusiastic and invites the reader to offer up their own ideas for consideration.
Active voice is easier to understand and more compelling when used in business writing compared to passive voice. When using active voice, the subjects of each sentence are performing the action instead of passive voice, where the subjects receive the action.
For example, “The entire project was completed by Susan who didn’t have any help” is written in passive voice, whereas “Susan completed the entire project without help” is written in active voice.
It's important to keep in mind who you're writing to; you should match your audience's level of formality. Being too casual can cause you to be taken less seriously by business partners and clients while being too formal can come across as stiff and unable to connect to the needs of your team, your business associates, and your clients.
Try to hit the happy medium between casual and formal; for example, contractions like "it's" and "don't" are likely fine, but avoid slang, jokes, and too-informal language.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that the person you’re emailing is entirely up to speed on the topic you’re discussing. If necessary, spend a few sentences at the top of the email or letter giving a short summary of the background information needed to better understand the email.
If you have supporting materials, attach them in an organized folder that is easy-to-follow in a linear fashion. Avoid sending multiple emails that link together, e.g. if you have an email that you would forward along with your written email, consider just copy and pasting the text from the forwarded email to the new one so the recipient isn’t digging through their inbox to find two separate emails from you.
Stick to one topic per email, especially if you’re using a clear subject line format. Not only is it impossible to include everything from a multi-topic email in the subject line, but your recipient can also easily get confused and lose track of what your intentions and needs are in the communication.
Instead, use one email or other form of communication to start a thread on a topic and another email if you have a different topic that you also need to address at the same time.
Once you’ve composed the bulk of your email or other correspondence, take the time to provide a concise summary at the end of what was said and what each person referenced in the email – including yourself – needs to take action on next.
Even if you're an excellent writer that has been composing letters, emails, and even articles and books, it's still critical to proofread your work before sending it. A simple typo is easily overlooked and likely won't impact your company's standing but spelling errors and poorly organized content are less forgivable.
Always proofread your business emails and any other correspondence you send multiple times before it leaves your hands. If needed, print the piece out and proofread by hand; it's very easy to miss mistakes on-screen that are more easily seen on paper.
Knowing how to write effective business emails, letters, memorandums, and other critical forms of company communication is imperative to the success of your employees and your company overall. Business Watch Network offers robust online training and business webinars to help your team get the ongoing education you need when it works for you.
Join our upcoming webinar, Write It So They Read It: Business Writing Secrets That Get Results to discover more ways to improve your team’s written communication skills. Or, contact us for more information on how Business Watch Network can help your company access comprehensive online training 24/7/365.