We may live in an era of text-speak, WhatsApp, Facebook and 140 character messages on Twitter, but good writing still matters when it comes to the business world.
What does your writing say about you?
What Does Your Writing Say About You in the Era of Modern Technology?
Nowadays, it no longer takes centuries for a language such as English to evolve. In this technological age, with mass media and the internet, we see linguistic change happening at a much faster pace.
Moreover, our use of language cannot be divorced from our ever-changing attitudes and lifestyle. We can no longer teach 21st-century students to write in a language and style suited to the 20th century. We need to learn and develop our written skills continuously to keep up with the changes in grammar, style and usage.
Beware of Poor Writing
There was a time when written English was considered different from spoken English. Not anymore – at least not in business English.
Today, the written Business English found in the workplace is often simpler, more concise, direct and accurate. To be successful, we have to demonstrate effective communication skills, both spoken and written. The risks of ineffective writing skills are many:
- Tarnished image and reputation of both the individual and the organisation
- Impaired understanding causing confusion and frustration
- Negative impact on personal progression and promotion
- Potential loss of customers
Good Writing is Good Business
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn
Powerful writing, on the other hand, establishes rapport and engages customers. The good news is that writing academic or business English effectively is a skill that can be practised and learnt.
It is, therefore, vital for students and professionals to hone their writing skills constantly. As Alvin Toffler put it, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”
Top Tips for Your Writing
The way you write reflects on you both personally and professionally
Therefore, how do we develop our writing skills to keep up as language changes and evolves? Here are ten tips that will help:
Read samples of good writing, for example, from multinational companies that are known for communicating effectively with their clients. Learn from regular exposure to books and websites that provide examples of how to write as well as how not to write.
2. BE CURRENT
Use current grammar books because the rules of grammar and punctuation change over time. For example, some grammar rules such as not ending sentences with prepositions, not starting a sentence with conjunctions such as “and” or “but”, and not splitting infinitives are now considered out-dated. The use of punctuation has evolved as well.
What does your writing say about you? Protect your personal brand and do something about it!
Open punctuation, for instance, without commas after greetings or closing in an email is becoming the norm compared to closed punctuation where commas are used. In business English at least, fewer punctuation marks are in general use.
3. EXPAND YOUR VOCABULARY
Expand your vocabulary and use a range of words that sound natural and relevant. Concrete and shorter Anglo-Saxon words like “begin” and “friendly” are now preferred to the more abstract and polysyllabic Latinate words like “commence” or “amicable”. The objective is to express rather than impress and to write to suit your reader.
4. AVOID OLD FASHIONED TERMS
Avoid old-fashioned expressions that have become obsolete like “deem” for “think” or “believe” and “furnish” for “give” or ”send”. Unlike in the past, personal pronouns such as “you” and “me” are preferred instead of the impersonal “the company” or “the customer”. Equally, avoid clichés and buzz words that have become stale with overuse.
5. BE CLEAR
Learn to write in a clear and conversational style that makes readers feel you are talking to them rather than at them. Tone, though courteous, is becoming more relaxed and friendly, if not informal. Balance the tone between being too direct or indirect but always polite and professional.
6. USE ACTION VERBS
Use action verbs which are stronger and more alive than state verbs or nouns. If you use too many nouns, your writing can seem cumbersome and old-fashioned. Based on this point, what does your writing say about you?
7. GET TO THE POINT QUICKLY
Avoid redundancy. Get to the point more directly and do not bury your key information in the body of the document.
8. USE THE ACTIVE VOICE
Use the active voice with its direct and concise ‘Who-Did-What’ style that makes your writing both direct and dynamic instead of the passive voice that can make your language rather formal, impersonal and distant. Use your judgement here.
9. CLEAN IT UP!
In short, cut the clutter. Today’s reader is busy and prefers to read simple, short and direct documents rather than old-fashioned, flowery, rambling prose. Most professionals are used to reading online and have shorter attention spans. Short paragraphs, short sentences and short words are better.
10. KEEP LEARNING
Consider undergoing business writing training and follow it with self-study and regular practice.
Learning to keep up with the changes in language use may take time, practice and patience, but it is worth it. Whatever work you do, you will be required to write. You may, at times, need to persuade, influence or negotiate.
The way you write reflects on you both personally and professionally. The more you keep abreast of changes in language usage, the more effective you will be in the communication skills vital for advance in your career.
So, what does your writing say about you?