Ten years ago when
I decided to become a trainer/consultant in business writing, companies
were demanding their staff be taught how to write clearly and concisely.
The emphasis was on letters and memos.
In the early 1990s
as people began to lose their secretarial support and were forced to
compose, input and edit their own documents, grammar and punctuation
became a concern. "My people don't look professional," said
managers, "when their material is riddled with errors."
In addition, report
writing was added to the list of writing "musts" as staff
were required to write more and more comprehensive documents to inform
senior management or to analyze the status of projects.
Then in the mid-90s
another criteria was added - tone. As businesses became even more competitive,
they felt the need to build relationships with their clients and customers.
"My staff have to be able to add warmth and personality to their
and responding to either request for information (RFIs) or requests
for proposals (RFPs) were also given increased focus as these tools
became a favoured way to do business.
Now in the late
90s, two new writing vehicles are demanding attention: business case
studies and internet writing. Business case studies not only examine
all the relevant information associated with a situation, they also
analyze the alternatives. And, as for internet writing, the internet
is fast becoming the "fourth channel" of business communication
(the other three being face-to-face, mail, and phone).
Writing styles are
constantly evolving according to customer needs. Up until the 80s writing
was considered good if it was cold, impersonal, employed polysyllabic
words and involved long paragraphs and complicated sentences.
Now the writing
of choice varies widely from formal to informal depending on the reader
and the message. Sentences and paragraphs are shorter and bulleted lists
highly popular. Good grammar is still crucial, and visual appeal even
more so as business people will not wade through visually-demanding
documents (all print/little white space).
One of the most
important changes in writing, however, is the thinking behind the writing
Good documents now
have a strong infrastructure. This infrastructure or blueprint is based
on research on how ideas can be effectively arranged. Every letter,
memo, report, proposal and business case plan now has a proven format
associated with it. By using the appropriate format, the writer can
order his ideas so they match the needs of the reader's mind; he will
include the relevant data in a powerful manner and eliminate the inessentials.
When a writer arranges
his thoughts using the appropriate blueprint, he increases its clarity,
reduces his writing time, and decreases the length of his documents.
writing requires many ingredients:
- Clarity and conciseness
- Good grammar
- Visual appeal
- Appropriate tone
- Organized structure