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Everyone Can Write Better

This week I led a business writing workshop with nine very smart business people. They do important analytic work for their company, which is the best in its class.

Why, you might wonder, were sophisticated professionals in a business writing class?

They were in class to get the answer to this all-important question: "How can we do our jobs better?"

We should all be asking that question, especially if we want to be the best in our business. And since everyone writes, we should all ask how we can do our jobs better through improved writing skills and strategies.

The group found they could write their technical reports better if they tried a new approach. Their old, traditional approach to reports included these sections in this order:

  • Objective
  • Background
  • Methodology
  • Results Summary
  • Recommendations
  • Detailed Findings

When we talked about what their primary readers needed from the reports, they realized that their readers–senior executives and creative marketing professionals–did not need the objective, background, methodology, etc. Instead, their readers wanted answers to these questions:

  1. What did your analysis show?
  2. Which is the most profitable approach? Why?
  3. What do you recommend?
  4. What next?

The group’s next step is to decide how to take the best of their traditional reports and use it to answer their readers’ key questions.

Not sure how you can write better? Why not read a good book or some tips on writing? How about taking a class? Why not think about your readers and how you can give them exactly what they need?

We can all write better. And when we do, we can offer more to our companies, our jobs, and ourselves.

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.