Analyze Your Target Readers

In order to create the sense of urgency needed to get your target readers to take the action that you want them to take, you need to understand their needs and wants, and you need to address them with the proper level of formality. Together, these two steps understanding what's likely to motivate your readers and identifying the appropriate level of formality enable you to write to your specific audience these steps comprisse the second tool of this chapter. Before you write, you need to think...

Capitalize For Emphasis

If you capitalize all letters within an E-mail, you're likely to hear from your reader, Stop shouting at me All caps are considered shouting. When you capitalize a word you are adding emphasis or importance, or otherwise highlighting the word. Be cautious about conveying the significance resulting from capitalizing a word. The points that follow outline when it's proper to capitalize words and when it's considered optional. (Note that you don't capitalize seasons except in a title or if...

Grammar And Punctuation Update

Several grammar and punctuation rules have changed since you learned them in English class, and in order to produce professional writing, you need to be aware of the new criteria. The answers to the five questions that follow serve as guidelines to help you use up-to-date standards in your business writing. The five questions are 1. May I start a sentence with a transitional word such as and or but 2. May I end a sentence with a preposition 4. May I ever use their as a neutral pronoun 5. How...

Capitalize on the Power of Inference

Starting sentences with a verb, a writing technique using the imperative mood, is a forceful way to make a point, and it implies the pronoun you. For example, if you write, Attend the meeting and let me know whether an agreement is reached, the reference to your reader is understood. You're really saying, You attend the meeting and you let me know whether an agreement is reached. In this example, note that we would count two references to your reader, because you are implying the pronoun you...

Punctuate For Clarity

Punctuate to ensure that your meaning is clear. Inserting punctuation marks consistently helps your reader understand your intent. There are several rules, but many punctuation issues are a matter of opinion or style There is more than one acceptable alternative. By deciding how you'll handle these style dilemmas once and for all, you'll save time and ensure clarity. Once you know which rules you need to follow, you are in a good position to make decisions that suit you and to apply them...

Level Three Everything

Andrea, the owner of the insurance consulting firm who discovered that her boilerplate business letters needed to be proofed using Level Two standards says, My proposals are more complex, even though I send out only one proposal per subject and they're not huge. Five to ten pages is quite modest by some proposal standards. I once saw a grant proposal that ran over a hundred pages. But still, this is my bread and butter. It is essential to me that my proposals are perfect in every way. I used...

Visual Layout Ensure Easy Access to Information

Using a visual layout makes sense when you have long units of copy containing more than five facts, statistics, or numbers. For example, consider an annual report that asks readers to compare the past four quarters' revenue figures within a paragraph of text. No problem. But now imagine being asked to compare the past twelve months' revenue figures within a paragraph of text. Impossible. Instead of narrative text, use a bar chart to make the information easy to access and easy to understand....

Challenge Your Readers with a Question

Ending with a question involves readers by inviting them to think. I wanted to challenge people to come up with ideas, Max says. Creative director of an internal advertising department in the textile industry, Max ended a staff E-mail looking for new promotional ideas with T-shirts and baseball caps. Tote bags and pens. We need a fresh approach. Any ideas He explained, Ending with a question helps people focus. Sarah, a freelance writer, wanted to win approval for an article idea. She ended her...

Separate Modifying Phrases

Modifying phrases add information, often providing valuable or interesting details that clarify or expand ideas. Setting off these phrases with punctuation helps the reader understand the relationship between the modification and the main thought. Whenever you punctuate a modifying phrase, there are always three options, and the marks are properly used in pairs. 1. Use commas to convey neutrality. 2. Use parentheses to indicate that the modifying phrase is an aside. 3. Use dashes to highlight...

Use Time Sensitive Vocabulary to Increase Urgency

Certain time-related words and phrases inspire action, such as now, today, before the deadline passes, right away, time is of the essence, and by the end of business today or in an hour, or by any other specified deadline . This time-sensitive vocabulary creates a sense of urgency while maintaining a professional, business-like tone. While the above and similar phrases create a sense of timeliness, try to avoid the clich d generic phrase as soon as possible or its abbreviation, ASAP . It is...

Certain Words Require Certain Prepositions

Certain words must be followed by certain prepositions in order to achieve clarity. Learning these combinations will help you conform to professional standards in business writing. The following list of common combinations clarifies which preposition to use when. account for to explain or justify something missing account to to explain or justify something to someone He needs to account for his absence at the client meeting. He will have to account to Mr. Peterson for missing the client...

Exercise Revise for Conciseness

Gloria, an administrative assistant in a silk flower company, said, My boss sends out proposals to hotel executives. Her ideas are good, but she's wordy. I always have to revise her writing, but it's important that I preserve her meaning. Read the following paragraph from one of the proposals Gloria needs to revise, and rewrite it so that it's clear, focused, and appropriately short. As the leader in the silk flower industry, we create arrangements that are lush and full and always custom...

Start Sentences with Words That Hook Your Readers Interest

The first question is May I start a sentence with a transitional word such as and or but Many of us learned in school that we were never to begin sentences with words such as and, but, because, so, therefore, or any other transitional expression. But just as in normal business conversations we begin sentences with and, but, because, so, therefore, and other similar words and phrases, it is accepted practice to use these words and phrases to begin sentences in business writing if doing so sounds...

Exercise Revise in a Methodical Manner

In the following first draft of an E-mail to retail sales staff, Les, the merchandising manager of a one-hour eyeglasses store chain, wants to institute a policy that the in-store sales staff shouldn't leave eyeglass frames scattered on the counter. Les explained that he struggled with how to word the E-mail. I didn't want to issue an edict, he explained. I wanted to position it as a sales strategy. Read Les's first draft, answer the questions, and then revise the E-mail, addressing the issues...

Exercise Capitalize Correctly

Rewrite the sentences below, making all appropriate corrections. 1. the team leader is ms. feeney. 2. the keynote speaker, dr. leon williams, chairman, will speak on wednesday. 3. the first draft of the budget is due friday, january 1. 4. payments for unemployment taxes are sent to the new york department of taxation. 5. uncle joel and aunt maria are staying at the sheraton hotel on the avenue of the americas. 6. i just finished watching cnn news on channel 2. 7. we want to visit red rocks when...

Adverbs May Weaken Verbs

Instead of adding words and phrases that modify verbs, it's often better to select the most exact verb. Choosing an on-target verb adds impact to the sentence and may eliminate an unneeded adverb. In the following examples, note the effectiveness of choosing the precise verb. The committee carefully considered the proposed reorganization. The committee deliberated the proposed reorganization. The word deliberated means carefully considered. The negotiations quickly fell apart when the partner...

Organize Your Thoughts Methodically with a Traditional Outline

In a traditional outline, numerals and letters are used to create a hierarchy of information. Your primary points are labeled with large roman numerals. Subpoints under primary point use capital letters. The next level down uses regular numbers, followed by lowercase letters, and so on. Following the strict outlining conventions, you need at least two points within each category, although in business writing, there is far more flexibility. Sarah, a director in a health care company, decided to...

Tactic One Conciseness

Ben Franklin once wrote, Never use a longer word when a shorter word will do. Brevity is a virtue in business writing. Impatient executives, time-strapped managers, and overloaded workers want you to get to Copyright 2003 by Jane Cleland. Click Here for Terms of Use. the point. But effective business writing requires more than brevity it requires clear messages delivered in an unambiguous style. The first tactic, conciseness, demands that you write succinctly. The need to address this issue...

Narrative Lists

It's important to use the same verb tense within a list. Consider the following sentence, for example Applicants will be interviewed, tested, and after the interview they can ask questions. Notice the first two verbs are in the past tense interviewed and tested. The last verb, however, is constructed differently can ask. It would be better to maintain the same grammatical construction throughout Applicants will be interviewed, tested, and invited to ask questions. The job description must be...