Are You Writing for Today or Yesterday?

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“With reference to your letter…” “Enclosed herewith please find…” “I am writing to inform you…” “Please be advised…”

Are you still writing letters and emails using these old-fashioned, boring clichés? In today’s fast-paced business world with its focus on effective communication, these stuffy formalities make your writing unnecessarily complicated and impersonal. Yet many writers seem to be intoxicated with their own verbosity. People are recycling phrases like these regulalrly: “We have received your letter”, “Kindly be advised” and “Please find enclosed herewith”.

Are you also peppering your emails with this standard template language? This writing was used by our great-grandfathers in a world that moved much slower, when they had time to write such long-winded jargon, and when readers had time to figure out what the writer was trying to say. In today’s fast-paced business world, we don’t have time for such convoluted language.

Technology has evolved – but what’s happened to our writing?
With the ever-increasing speed of technological change, we all need to stay up-to-date with new equipment and computer programs. As soon as a new version of a popular program becomes available, we must learn it. When some new technology comes out, we must have it. The way business is conducted generally has also changed immensely over the last few decades. Business is now conducted in a very informal way – a natural, more relaxed language is used in meetings and conferences, rather than the stiff, formal language of yesteryear. But what’s happened to our written communication? It seems many people today are still using a writing style more suited to our great-grandfathers than to 21st century businessmen and women.

Writing effectively can be very demanding
We are now writing more than ever. Most managers are creating their own communications – letters, memos, faxes, reports, articles, marketing materials and especially emails. The key to successful negotiation is often speed, so writing effectively under these circumstances can be very demanding.

Despite the growth and efficiency of email, it seems our business writing skills have evolved very little. Even in emails, many writers are dredging up ancient conventions and a hoard of old-fashioned template phrases, such as: “As spoken in our telecon…”, “Kindly furnish us with this information…”, “The above-mentioned good …”, “at your soonest convenience…”, “for your reference and perusal…”. The list is endless! In Asia, the most popular phrase is “Please revert to me at your soonest.” Don’t let me get me started on that one!

Focus on building relationships
This is 2014, not 1914! If you are still peppering your writing with these and other standard, boring clichés, then you aren’t doing yourself or your company any favours. Stiff, wooden language will not help you to make connections and build relationships with your readers. Such phrases will not help you to do the one thing we should all be striving for today in everything we do today – and that’s building relationships. So instead of “We refer to your email”, write: “Thanks for your message”. Instead of “We spoke this morning”, say “Thanks for your call” or “It was good to speak to you”. Use feeling language like, “I’m pleased to help you with this” or “I understand your concern”. This is relationship-building language.

Let readers hear your voice
In a world that is driven by technology, it’s so important not to sound like the machines that rule our lives. Instead, show readers that you are a real live human being with a personality and a voice. Yes, a voice! Any why not throw in a smile too?

People who make their emails friendlier and more conversational will ultimately have greater success because they will develop closer relationships more quickly. When you put this personal touch in your writing, you’ll stand out from others, you’ll let readers hear your voice, and you’ll start developing better relationships with everyone.

One language, not two
In my keynotes and training, people say to me, “Oh but Shirley, this is what I would say, but I wouldn’t write it. And this is what I’d write, but I wouldn’t say it!” Why are people making things so much more difficult for themselves by writing and speaking in totally different ways? We should be writing as we speak, in a friendly, informal, conversational style. One language, not two!

If you wouldn’t say it, don’t write it!
Effective communication gives a professional impression of you and of your organisation. Effective communication helps to get things done. Writing effectively is perhaps the most demanding work we do. Writing requires imagination, creativity, organisation, careful planning and many other skills if a message is to be effective and get results. In our high-tech, fast-paced business environment, there should be no room for yesterday’s old-fashioned, long-winded jargon.

Today’s business language should be proactive, stimulating, interesting and, most of all, it should reflect your own personality. Instead of using boring clichés that have been around for decades, the key is to write in a natural style, as if you are having a conversation. The golden rule of writing today is very simple: “Write as you speak!”

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Shirley Taylor

Shirley is giving away a FREE Checklist ‘Top 10 Reasons Why Your Writing Style May Not Be Working and What You Can Do About It’. PLUS you will also receive a free trial comprising four modules from her unique, interactive, virtual training program ‘Business Writing That Works’. Write to her now at [email protected], and put ‘Free Checklist Executive Secretary’ in the subject line.

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