CAD Management: Business Writing Skills

January 24th, 2013

Some say that business writing skills are overrated. 

Why do we need to focus on writing so much?  Many think “I am a good verbal communicator so I can get my point across well in written form, no problem”. 

But that is so far from being true. 

People also think that we are writing less, but actually we are writing more, but in new ways. Email, texting, blogging, Facebook, Twitter and more are changing the way written communication is happening.  There are shorter and shorter messages being given.  PowerPoint reduces us to bulleted lists. Advertising gets it down to 7 words.  Make sure that these 7 words are in your ads and they will get responses. What are those words?  They include these words or some variation of them – Quick, Guarantee, Limited, Easy, Testimonial, Free and Secret.  There they are.  Mix these into your message and you will get results.

That is what is promised anyway.

So here is my attempt to get you to realize that you need to improve your writing skills.

You can quickly and easily advance your career by using one free skill. There is no limit to its use and it is guaranteed to improve your standing with others.  The secret is Writing.  I know – I have seen it in action  (the testimonial part).

Now on to the rest of this article.

Improving your business writing skills can assist in advancing your career in subtle ways.

In a recent online poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal 96.5% people answered yes to the question “Do you think writing skills are important in the corporate world?”

Check out just about every job description.  It will include a desire by every firm for the candidates to have superior written and verbal skills.

So what do you do?  Get better. 

I am in no way trying to imply that I am the best at writing.  When you read my articles, you are not seeing my business writing skills.  This is written in what I call conversational style.  I write as if we were discussing the topic face to face.  I use a more casual style. 

Business writing in a more formal process.  More proper.  It is on a higher level.  It may include using wording that would not be used in casual conversation.  It may involve a more in-depth presentation than emails or memos.  It may involve greater demands on grammar and language nuances.

So please go learn from those that know what needs to be involved.  There are many books on the topic.  Online courses are available also.

If you just don’t have the time or desire to do that, here are a few tips.

Practice writing at a higher level.  Advance your writing by doing more of it.  The more you write the better you will be.  It is an acquired skill. 

Read more.  By exposing yourself to other business writing, you will learn from others examples.  Get a copy of your company’s business plan or strategic plan.  Read proposals that your company sends to clients.  Read RFP’s that others have developed.  If you are really serious, read political documents and a stock prospectus (see the next paragraph for a caveat on this). 

Remember that business writing is not legal writing.  Do not make your writing so difficult to decipher that others are tied in knots by the wording.  Keep it understandable.

Gear it to the reader.  Do not just write what you would want to hear.  Write with the reader in mind and adjust up or down depending on the message.

Know your own flaws.  I constantly make the same errors in writing.  I misspell the same words all the time.  I use words in the wrong way, even when I am corrected by others and should know better.  I get stuck in ruts.  But knowing those ruts helps me be more attentive.  Dangling participles, split infinitives, double negatives, who vs whom, may or might, effect or affect, anxious or eager,   I land on the wrong side of these issues all the time.

Spellcheck everything and do not rely on it being correct.  I have used the wrong word, spelled correctly too many times to mention.  Advice or advise?  Login or Log In?  A lot or allot or alot?  It really looks bad.  Spell checkers (is that supposed to be one word?) can guess wrong if you mistype.  Go here for a very long list of common mistakes.  http://www.grammar-monster.com/common_grammar_errors.htm

Re-read your writing again and again.  If you wrote and reviewed the entire document on your computer, then print it out and proofread it.  The differing medium will prove effective in digesting the flow of the document. 

Get your facts right and be able to defend them.  If you draw conclusions from data, keep the data handy if needed to justify your conclusions.  If the data is not in the document, you can still refer to it if needed.

If the document is extensive, include an executive summary at the beginning.  Include the bottom line information needed and the conclusion or actions desired and get to the point.  This may be the only thing some people read.

By taking a little extra time and researching the best practices in business writing, you will improve.  Even a little improvement will go a long way.

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About the Authors

Mark Kiker

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning.  As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996.Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.