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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You Can Increase Your Success By Writing With Purpose

Once you have a clear understanding of who your audience is, you need to answer the question: Why am I writing?

You may be writing an e-mail to ask an employee or coworker for information. Or you might be writing a report to convince your boss that increasing resources is necessary to complete a project on time. Figuring out the purpose of your communication will help you organize your writing, assess what kind of evidence or information you need to back up your statements, and determine the style and tone of your writing.

In general, most written business communications have one of two purposes: to request information or the resolution of an issue, or to persuade.

Writing to request or resolve. Open with a respectful greeting to the person you are addressing before quickly moving on to the purpose of the request. If you don’t know the proper contact name, make a quick telephone call to find it out, rather than using the generic “To whom it may concern.”

State the specific reason for writing in the first sentence of your document or letter. Be sure to supply identifying information of special relevance to your reader—a reference to a previous conversation or event, a document, customer order, invoice, or job number, etc. This gives context to your message and enables a reader to be reasonably assured it is valid, especially if you are contacting someone for the first time.

If you are hoping to resolve an issue, avoid sarcasm and accusations. Not only do you risk letting anger cloud your judgment, but you will not endear yourself to the very people who could solve your problem. If you do feel the need to express your dissatisfaction, use a civil tone and address the person respectfully. When sending an e-mail, keep in mind that it is a medium in which the tone of a message can be easily misinterpreted as sarcasm or disrespect.

Writing to persuade. Trying to get someone to come around to your way of thinking is never easy. It is decidedly more difficult using only the written word, which cannot communicate facial expressions or the inflections of voice that lend emphasis during a conversation. Nevertheless, crafting a convincing correspondence or report is possible. Your power of persuasion will be determined largely by your selection of words.

When crafting a persuasive message, experts say, one word is more powerful than all others: “You.” Don’t begin by talking about yourself. Instead, let the person on the receiving end take center stage. Connect your purpose in writing with the interests and needs of your reader.

For example, if you are writing to convince employees that their participation in a certain endeavor is needed, emphasize what is of value to your workforce. If overtime will be required, let them know it is a temporary situation and emphasize that it reflects positively on the company and hence on each person directly.

Let them know you sympathize, and offer some token of appreciation in return for their continued commitment.

If you are writing to customers, focus on how you or your product can help them meet their needs. Consider this letter:

Dear Mr. Expert,

Your name was provided by a colleague, Fred Smith. Fred suggested you might be interested in our digital pager, which will be unveiled at the Online Communication trade show in Chicago. If you are attending the show, I can make arrangements for you to get a trial version of the pager and determine if it meets the needs of your mobile workforce. Please let me know if I can help.

Thank you for your time.


John Doe
Marketing Manager

Although this letter does not guarantee a response, it offers Mr. Expert some compelling reasons to consider replying. First, the reference to someone he knows is a tip-off that it was sent by a credible source. Second, it spells out the reasons Mr. Chen might be interested in learning more about the product. It closes by offering him

Writing Skill To Develop In Career

Managers who write sloppy, unclear, or convoluted correspondence and documents do themselves no career favors.

Consider a 2004 survey by the Business Roundtable and the National Commission on Writing for America’s Families, Schools, and Colleges, which found that 51 percent of all companies surveyed take candidates’ writing ability into account when considering them for a higher position. Moreover, the ability to write well could prove decisive when seeking a job. “People who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion,” according to the report.

The bottom line? If you are serious about advancing your managerial career, polish your writing skills.