Wondering what spiffing up your writing has to do with connecting and networking better? Plenty!
Here’s an example: Imagine you met someone interesting at an event or in the course of your daily activities or travels. You exchange business cards or contact information and decide to follow up, which very few people do. (So good for you!) You write a quick email and send it to your new contact the day after you meet.
A few days go by. You hear nothing back. You follow up again with another email. Nothing. Nada. Crickets. Two weeks go by. Still nothing. You re-read the emails you sent and suddenly realize…d’oh! You rambled like an idiot, your sentences were awkward, you misspelled a word, and you found several embarrassing typos. What’s more, you didn’t say what you really meant to say and offered no real value to the recipient. Worst case: you sounded like a total tool.
Has this happened to you? Of course it has. We’ve all done it. We’ve blasted out poorly written emails, sent sloppy letters, posted cryptic blogs, published pompous articles, and even penned promotional materials that left readers thinking, “Huh?” That is, if anyone bothered to read them.
That’s why I’m here today: to help you become a better business writer – and therefore a more effective connector. All it takes is getting acquainted with (and intentionally and consistently applying) a few painless, common-sense writing tips. I compiled and shared this list recently at a writing workshop for a client and received grateful hugs all around. So here we go…
Tips for Dramatically Improving Your Business Writing
Read more. Good writers are also good readers – and vice versa. Whether you read books, blogs, the newspaper, or magazines, the more examples of good writing you read, the better your writing will become. This advice comes directly from my college writing professors. It was always the very first tip they shared each semester.
Think and set intentions before you write. What exactly are you trying to say? How do you want to say it? How do you want it to be perceived? What impact or change are you trying to make with your words? Fellow writer Alexandra Franzen says to follow the FEEL, KNOW, DO model. How do you want your readers to feel? What do you want them to know? And what do you want them to do? Such elegant advice!
Write it all down. Then clean it and condense it. Don’t stop yourself from flowing words onto the page, but never be satisfied with your first draft. You can always improve it. Go back and consider how your words and sentences could be better, kinder, clearer, and more direct. And remember it takes time and effort to achieve brevity and clarity.
Give whatever you write the “Overnight Test.” Write your draft, then put it away. Let it sit. Come back to it later. Your brain needs a rest, and taking a fresh look after a few hours – or days – will reveal necessary changes. These could be small, tweaky shifts – or massive rewrites.
Are you using the right word? Be sure the word you use is the right one for the job. So often we think we know what a word means, but end up using it in accurately. Or we mistake one word for another that has a similar ring to it. This can get embarrassing! Use your dictionary to double check.
Write simply. Instead of filling your paragraphs with long-winded sentences and puffed-up words, why not stick to simple, clear, easy-to-understand terms that everyone will understand right away? And mix in short sentences to offset the long ones. Your readers will thank you.
Use bullet points. If you have a number of points to make, try using bullet points instead of long, rambling sentences and paragraphs.
Treat writing as if it’s your job. Because, guess what? It is! Good communication is one of the top traits of successful – and likable – people and a requirement to your success in just about every job out there.
Read your writing out loud. Trust me on this one. Once you think you’ve finished writing, print it and read it aloud. If you’ve missed a typo or error or written something that’s awkward, this trick will save the day. (I have read this post aloud several times and I know there are still errors I’ve missed. I’m sure you will be helpful in pointing them out. Gently, of course. )
Care about improving and overcoming your writing blind spots. We all fall into bad habits with our communication, whether it’s texting, speaking, or writing because we are busy and it’s so easy to blurt things out and hit SEND. Slow down and try to catch and correct your own bad habits. This is hard, as we are typically time-pressed and blind to our quirks and errors, so….
Be brave and ask for editing and constructive feedback. Ask people you know and trust how you could improve your writing. Take heed of what they offer. Honesty is a gift here.
Have favorite tips that help you write more easily, clearly, and effectively? Let’s hear them!
Need the perfect low-cost, high-value gift for the new grads, job hunters, or entrepreneurs in your life? Go to your favorite online book retailer and order them copies of The Intentional Networker. It’s a gift they will enjoy and appreciate in 2017 and beyond!
Patti, thanks so much for sharing such useful tips. New to me was the one about setting (know, feel, do) intentions before I write. Going to practice that one! Here are others I’ve found helpful: put most important idea at the beginning and make content skimmabe by using headings. We read so much on our phones now that making our writing mobile-friendly is a big help to readers. CHeers, Judy
Thank you, Judy, for your comment and additional ideas. These are excellent!