A new instructor led our water aerobics class at the local pool yesterday. Unfortunately, every choice she made showed her lack of experience.
She led us in doing the same exercise for minutes (boring). She had us work on our legs without exercising our arms (inefficient). She spoke too softly to get our attention over the music, and she had side conversations that kept us repeating the same movements while we waited for her to finish.
I wish the new teacher had observed the class of an excellent instructor, Peter, who always pushes us to have a good workout and a good time. If she had copied only half of what he does and how he does it, her class would have been effective. And people would not have been talking in the locker room about going to other pools.
The same is true of writing: If you are new to business writing–or to writing a particular type of document–copy what works.
Don't flounder the way the new aerobics teacher did. If you are assigned a new writing task, ask your supervisor for an example of what he or she expects. Get good examples of proposals, meeting minutes, announcements, and performance appraisals–whatever kinds of business writing are new to you.
With a model proposal, you will recognize how to focus on the client's needs. With samples of good meeting minutes, you will know how much to record. Model announcements will help you include all the necessary information, and examples of performance appraisals will help you identify the appropriate professional tone.
If you supervise writers, be sure to share excellent examples of the kinds of business writing you want.
My book Business Writing With Heart: How to Build Great Work Relationships One Message at a Time includes more than 200 samples of effective messages.
My guide Help Employees Write Better: A Guide for Managers, Trainers, and Others Who Care About Business Writing includes 60 ways to improve employee writing and solve writing problems.
Our Better Business Writing class features 23 model documents such as responses to customer complaints, recommendations, and requests.
Model your writing on the effective writing of others. Copy what works.