Business writing skills are essential for professionals and for anyone who seeks to be a top performer in the corporate world. It is one of the key skills that organizations look for when hiring, esp. among fresh graduates.
Business writing skills can be simply referred to as the art and ability to write clear, effective, professional business documents, which are key communication tools in any organization. These business documents include memos, reports, emails, letters etc.
It is important to note that business documents are a reflection of an organization’s brand and culture. The way you communicate, internally and externally, represents your organizational values, standards and corporate culture. Emails are the most frequently used business communication tools and one of the most misused as well. It is one of the fastest and most reliable means of communicating from one business to the other, for business enquiries, for internal communications, for virtual and remote work, just to mention a few. It is also a very effective method of record-keeping as information can be retrieved easily and faster.
As one of the most common means of business communication, it has its rules and guidelines. Effective communication means that a message is clear, succinct and understood by both parties. It is extremely important that email etiquettes are observed to avoid being misunderstood or sending out conflicting signals over business transactions. Here are a few email etiquettes you need to know for effective communication:
- Before writing, consider your audience, the message you want to convey and articulate your thoughts accordingly. This helps you define the language and tone to use for your email. The language, style and tone used for superiors or external clients should be different from what you would use for colleagues, in the same office or outside your organization. If the characteristics or demographics of your audience is not known, it is safer to be use formal language and style in your email.
- Organize your writing. Each thought or concept should be put in their separate paragraphs. In other words, each paragraph should be able to convey a particular thought or idea. Do not bunch different thoughts together in one paragraph. The idea is to ensure that each paragraph is able to convey its own message without being lost in a haze of other messages. Ideally, greetings/salutations should come first and after that, remember to go straight to the point and cut out other frivolities that might distort the main reason for your email.
- Never use ALL CAPS while writing an email. It signifies shouting and conveys the feeling of anger. In the same manner, never use a lot of exclamation marks. Three or more exclamation marks convey same feelings of anger and shouting. Exclamation mark is used to lay emphasis so use only one when you need to emphasize a point. Also, consider your audience before using the exclamation mark. Using it for a superior conveys a different meaning to him/her.
- Do not use slangs or abbreviations in your email. Job applicants fall prey to this a lot. In this era of excessive social media slangs and abbreviations, it is saddening to see job applications via email written with abbreviations and slangs. It conveys the highest form of indiscipline and the lack of ability to pay attention to details. Emails for business communication should be formal, well-structured, succinct and clear.
- Use proper spelling, formatting and grammar. Always re-read your emails thoroughly before sending, ensuring that spell checks are properly done. It is extremely important in this era of ‘auto-correct’.
- Ensure that the subject of your mail properly conveys what the email is all about. The subject of your mail cannot be “LONG TIME’ when the body of your mail is conveying the message of job/position relocation.
- Ensure that the ‘sign-out’/signature line of your email is professional and a reflection of your position or job. Your signature line should not carry quotes of your political or religious ideologies and leanings. If your organization has a standard signature line, ensure to use it. Otherwise create yours and keep it professional.
- Kindly avoid forwarding chain letters or spam mails from your mailbox.
- Ensure that you respond to emails as quickly and swiftly as possible. It shows a high level of responsibility and effectiveness on your part.
- Your email address should be professional, esp. if you don’t operate a company email address. An email from the address ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ will not be taken seriously for any business transaction. This is also crucial for candidates applying for a job. Ensure that your email address doesn’t automatically send your job application to spam or mail trash!
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