Almost everyone can benefit from improving their written communication skills, although the thought may not have even crossed your mind. Effective communication is vital for expressing and sharing your ideas successfully. It can help to avoid misunderstandings and save time by ensuring you give the correct information to clients and colleagues, which can have a huge impact on both customer satisfaction, and internal processes. So, let’s take a look at just a few of the methods you can use to get the most out of your business correspondence.
Be Aware of Your Audience
Knowing your audience is key in ensuring that your correspondence is a success. Think about what their level of knowledge on the specific topic is, as well as what is of importance to them. Of course it is beneficial for you to know a lot of business language that is possibly used throughout your team or company, but be particularly wary when communicating with someone from outside of your organisation. Remember to adjust your language depending on who you are addressing and their level of knowledge on the subject, or even their understanding of the language you’re writing in. It’s always better to opt for clarity rather than using jargon that maybe not everyone understands.
Additionally, make your reader the centre of your writing. You can do this in the first line of your email by addressing them by name, provided you already have this information. Additionally, avoid bombarding your audience with information that is neither interesting nor important to them, as it clouds the intended message.
Pay Attention to Your Tone
One of the most widely referenced rule-of-thumbs for business writing is to use Active Voice, as opposed to Passive Voice. When using Active Voice, sentences come across much clearer and understandable, as they are more direct and to the point. For example, the passive sentence: ‘The report was put together by my colleague’ would be changed to: ‘My colleague put the report together’ in the active voice. Basically, it puts the important information first, and in doing so, makes it easier to comprehend quickly and encourages the reader to respond.
In general, a good approach is to write in short sentences, using concise language and removing unnecessary jargon. It’s important to be direct to ensure there are as little miscommunications as possible, however don’t mistake directness with being blunt. Although it may not always be easy, always make the effort to be positive and friendly, so that the recipient feels comfortable in approaching you if they have any questions or concerns.
Draft and Proofread
Drafting and proofreading your emails goes a long way in ensuring you adequately communicate your meaning and reduce any possibility of miscommunication or error. They both often go overlooked when sending emails, which can sometimes be disastrous (or just slightly embarrassing). It’s therefore extremely beneficial to take the time to read over your emails before hitting send to ensure everything is correct. The most important aspect to check is the information, as it could cause a lot of confusion and hassle for both you and the recipient, should the information be incorrect. Depending on what you’re sharing, it is also sometimes worth (or required) to have it checked over by a colleague and collaborating on multiple drafts.
Secondly, check your grammar. Even if you think you’re a perfect speller or competed in spelling bees as a child, there’s always the possibility that at least one mistake managed to slip through the cracks. Pay special attention to the receiver’s name, so you don’t mistakenly call Andrea Andrew by mistake! Checking and correcting grammar, punctuation and spelling may seem trivial or like it’s not the best use of your time, but it shows that you care and put effort into the email, which reflects on how you work in general.
Find the Right Tools
Finding the best tools for your business correspondence makes all the difference. For instance, maybe you feel like you would benefit from a digital tool that does all the spell checking for you, to ensure you don’t miss anything. It’s helpful to have tools that aid in writing quality, however, not all tools have to be directly related to writing to enhance your communications.
Even the implementation of programs like Microsoft Teams or Slack can positively impact your internal communication. If you have questions for your colleagues you can just shoot them a quick message, or create groups with multiple people to keep track of project developments. These tools help with the organisation of conversations and topics, as opposed to relying on overcrowded and sometimes overlooked email inboxes.
Document management and editing tools can also be extremely beneficial for ensuring ease and functionality in your processes. Smallpdf is a great example of this. Instead of emailing large attachments that will take forever to load and send (if they can send at all), you can go to Smallpdf’s compress tool to shrink the file down to a manageable size. Additionally, if you work with a lot of contracts, you can use their digital signature tool, which not only allows you to create a signature online, but also keeps track of in- and out-going signature requests.
It is possible that you read through this list and determined you already do everything that was mentioned, which is great! If not, I hope you found this insightful, and feel encouraged to go through and identify what would be beneficial for you to implement in your own business communications.