Five Unacceptable Moves In Business Writing?

This week, we provide answers to some frequently asked questions at our business writing workshops.

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Question 1: Is it right to use “I” and “we” in the same message?

Answer: Yes, it is okay to include both pronouns in one message. Use “I”, when you are speaking for yourself and use “we” when you speak for the organization. For example, “I will email you tomorrow morning with the details. We look forward to meeting you this Friday.”

Question 2: Are contractions acceptable in business writing?

Answer: Yes, it’s acceptable to use contractions, however use them sparingly. Contractions such as “can’t, won’t, don’t, it’s, and didn’t” are considered somewhat informal. In formal documents, it is better to avoid them.

Question 3: Is it okay to end a sentence with a preposition?

Answer: Yes, it is, however sentences ending with prepositions are often considered less formal. Depending on the tone you want to project, an end of sentence preposition may or may not be suitable. For example, “These are the terms and conditions we would like you to think of.” Or “These are the terms and conditions we would like you to consider.”

Question 4: Can I start a sentence with “and or but”?

Answer: Yes and yes. Here also, it really is a matter of tone. If you want to sound formal, you can use other words like “in addition, furthermore or additionally” in place of and. Similarly, use “however, nevertheless or nonetheless” in place of but. Here is an example, “But, we hope to start the training this Wednesday. Or “Nevertheless, we hope to start the training this Wednesday.”

Question 5: Is it okay to begin a sentence with, “because”?

Answer: Yes, it is, however, beginning a sentence with “because” is often discouraged. Here is why, you may end up with sentence fragments if it is not done right. For example, “I did not sign the contract. Because the money was less than I asked for.” Here is A correct way to use because to begin a sentence, “Because we appreciate your business, please enjoy this 30% discount.”

10 Redundant Words to Avoid In Business Writing

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In business writing being concise is incredibly important. So, once you are done with your first draft, take another look and eliminate needless repetitions and redundancies. Check whether the expressions you’ve used add any value to your message. If you feel that you can take something out and your message will retain its meaning then do so. Most often redundant expressions only make writing longer, not better. Here are some of the common redundancies in business writing.

1. Group together. A thing that is grouped implies that it is together. So instead of saying, “let us group last year’s reports together” say, “let us group last year’s reports.”

2. Past experience. If it is an experience, it has already happened. Therefore, it is in the past. So, “In my past experience with the client, he has always been punctual” should be “In my experience with the client he has always been punctual.”

3. Future plans. If it is a plan, then it is yet to occur, therefore it is expected to happen in the future.

4. Repeat again. When you repeat something, you are doing or saying it again.

5. Sum total. The sum is the total. The total is the sum, get it? You only need one.

6. Might possibly. Might indicates possibility. So, instead of saying, “It might possibly rain,” say “It might rain” or “it possibly will rain.”

7. End results. Again, the end is the results, the results is the end. You only need one.

8. Postpone until later. To postpone something means to defer it for a later time. If you can be specific say for example, the meeting is postponed until Monday. If you can’t be specific simply say the meeting has been postponed.

9. Advance warning. To warn someone is to tell them something before it occurs. It cannot be a warning if it is not given in advance; therefore the word advance is redundant.

10. Unintentional mistake. For a thing to count as a mistake, it has to be unintentional. Unintentional, is therefore unnecessary.

12 Simpler and Effective Words to Use in Business Writing

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Creating a professional business image has nothing to do with big words. Many people get caught up in high-level vocabulary in an attempt to impress the reader in their business communication. Unfortunately, this shows that you don’t care much about your reader’s time and effort. At all times, if there is a simpler word, use that instead. Here is a list of simpler alternatives to some commonly used words in business writing:

Commonly used words:    Much simpler alternatives:  
1.     Optimum 1.     Best
2.     Formulate 2.     Make/Develop
3.     Adequate (number) 3.     Enough
4.     Fundamental 4.     Basic
5.     Terminate 5.     End
6.     Endeavour 6.     Try
7.     Disseminate 7.     Send Out/Distribute
8.     Customary 8.     Usual
9.     Implement 9.     Do/Carry Out
10.   Expedite 10.   Speed Up
11.    Obtain 11.    Get
12.   Ascertain 12.   Find Out/Check

Always remember this, good business communication, among other things, is concise and easy to understand.

 

5 ARCHAIC PHRASES TO AVOID IN BUSINESS WRITING

 

Take a look at the following phrases.

  • Please find enclosed …
  • Please be advised that…
  • Trusting this will meet with your approval…
  • This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of…
  • Pursuant to your letter of…

Do these phrases remind you of old Victorian novels? If so, you’re not alone. Writing like this was once widely accepted and is still frequently used. However, current business writing has taken on a more relaxed tone. Let us look at ways the above phrases can be rewritten.

  • Instead of saying, “Please find enclosed …”

You can say, “I’m sending you a scanned copy of the certificate.”

  • Instead of saying, “Please be advised that…”

You can say “Please send me your payment details within 10 days if you would like to be booked for the conference.”

  • Instead of saying, “Trusting this will meet with your approval…”

You can say, “I hope you approve of the changes made to the document.”

  • Instead of saying, “This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of…”

You can say, “I received your December 15 memo and will plan to attend the ceremony.”

  • Instead of saying, “Pursuant to your letter of May 1…”

You can say, “I received your May 1 letter about the closing of the school.”

5 Key Business Writing Tips

Communication is mutual understanding. This is especially important in the business world where poor business writing skills can cost you a contract, a promotion, or a new business opportunity. The better your business writing skills, the better your chances of creating the impact you desire. Here are five ways to make sure your writing is as good as it can be.

 

1. Be brief – Less is more in the business world. Stressed and overworked clients have little enthusiasm to read page after page of flowery and meandering text. Cut out the extraneous material and get straight to the point. This will not only save time, but make your writing easier to understand.

 

2. Avoid Jargons – Sometimes jargons are unavoidable, especially in more technical documents, but in most cases jargons only succeed in making your reader want to roll their eyes. Examples of these are “moving forward” and “game changer”. Also avoid academic language like “ergo” or “henceforth.”

 

3. Use an active voice – “The meeting agenda could be discussed further” is passive. “Let’s discuss the meeting agenda” is active. Active voice conveys confidence and decisiveness. Passive voice is weak and impersonal, sapping the power from your writing.

 

4. Pay attention to names, titles, and genders – How embarrassing is it to write to Mrs. Mensah only to later discover that Mrs. Mensah is actually Mr. Mensah? Such mistakes can be avoided by paying careful attention to names, titles and genders. If one is in doubt about the name or title of a client, check with someone who likely knows, for example their assistant.

 

5. Hire a professional – Okay, so this isn’t a writing tip but it’s often necessary. If you’re working on an important document or have little time to devote to improving your writing, it’s always a good idea to hire someone who specializes in business writing to assist. The quality of your business documents says a lot about your professionalism. 

 

Amazing writing may require talent that not all of us have, but effective writing is a skill that can be acquired. If your business writing isn’t up to snuff, we at the Gird Center are always ready to help.

Why Emails Subjects Lines are as Important As the Body of the Email

Whether or not a recipient will open your email depends largely on what the subject is. Unfortunately, spam emails have made it even easier for people to ignore or just delete emails they can’t make an immediate connection with. What gets your mail treated as spam, unimportant, frivolous or insignificant begins at the subject line.
It may seem like an easier option to just leave the subject field blank but that’s a terrible idea. The subject of an email is meant to give the recipient fore-knowledge about the content of the mail.
Never leave the subject field of an official email blank. The subject field should contain a one line summary of the content of the mail. It should be straight to the point and free of embellishments and superlatives. On the other hand, it should not be cryptic or vague, like “The thing you asked me to send.”
It can be a word or phrase that best describes the body of the email, like “Proposal Letter,”“End of Year Report” or “Follow up on Friday’s Meeting.”
It is tempting to write out the subject of a mail in all capital letters. However, writing in all caps is the equivalent of screaming. Unless you are sending an angry email an all caps subject line is best avoided.
You may begin each word with a capital letter or simply stick to a sentence case. Some people go for all capital letters to give the impression of urgency, if this is the case, it is better to begin the subject with “URGENT” or “Urgent” followed by the summary of the content.
Remember to keep email subjects short, straight to the point and relevant to the body of the mail.

“HEREIN, THEREBY”— A DEPARTURE FROM GRAVITAS IN BUSINESS WRITING

Black-businesswomanSome fifty years ago, business writing was characterized by formality and absolute seriousness. One could not write anyhow because sloppiness was an indication to your business associates that you were not ready to be treated with seriousness. The attitude of attaching a high level of seriousness to one’s writing is what is known as gravitas. Gravitas is a noun which means “high seriousness, as in a person’s bearing or the treatment of a subject; seriousness of conduct, bearing, speech, temperament,” etc.

In recent times, gravitas in business writing has witnessed a drastic change. As columnist Rob Walker states, the best way to show potential employers, associates, and clients that you mean business is to show them that you do not take yourself too seriously. People want to see the cool side of you; they do not want a prissy, uptight employee.

This shift in corporate writing should excite a lot of people, shouldn’t it? Who wants to write like a 20th-century British gentleman, after all? But hold on to your excitement. While TV shows, social media, and TV commercials may make fun of gravitas, jobseekers, young entrepreneurs, and public speakers who wish to go get ahead in the business world will master a form of Standard English and know when to use it. Some employers, as well as other business associates, believe that a poor grasp of grammar can translate to carelessness in other areas.

The key is to strike a careful balance between gravitas and flexibility. While our next post takes a closer look at ways to strike this balance, remember this:

You want to connect with your reader; you don’t  want to sound serious just for the sake of sounding serious. Effective writing is all about putting your readers first. Think about their interests and use language that they are more likely to connect with.