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.

 

Four Types of Business Communication You Must Know

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Last week, we established that the tone of all forms of business writing, from emails to business plans, must remain professional. Click here to read that article.

While keeping a professional tone at all times, it is important to identify the goal of each business communication. What exactly are you trying to achieve? Once you answer this question, you should be able to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively.

All forms of business communication fall under one of the following types. Make sure you goal aligns with your choice of words.

 

  • Actionable Communication. This type of communication encourages people to take actions or follow specific instructions. For example, one can send an email asking colleagues to complete an optional online survey. Actionable communication gives the reader something to do. It is expected that this kind of writing is motivational so that the reader is egged on to take the desired action. 
  • Informational Communication. This kind of business writing simply informs an audience. For example, an Ad announcing the re-branding of a product or service of a company. Informational communication is expected to be clear and easy to understand so as to avoid misinterpretation.
  • Negative Communication. This type of communication is inevitable in the corporate world. Sometimes an appointment has to be terminated or a deal has to be cancelled. Whatever the situation that calls for negative communication, care must be taken when writing any document of this nature. It’s important to be empathetic but firm and direct in this type of communication.
  • Persuasive Communication. This refers to proposals or applications for funding, a government grant, or partnership. The tone and style of the writing should be convincing and positive. The document has to hook the recipient so they consider or act on the plan.

 

 

Should My Business Emails Be Friendly or Formal?

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When composing a business email, setting the right tone can be tricky.

Let’s say your client or boss receives hundreds of emails in a day. With so many emails, he or she must choose which ones to read in a matter of seconds. If your email address isn’t familiar or your subject line is generic it may be deleted or ignored. However, an informal subject line or email may be viewed as unprofessional or even disrespectful.

So, how do you set the right tone in a business email? When composing an email, it is good to consider some of the following questions. How do you know this person? What, if any, contact have you had in the past? Is the person a superior at work or a client? Is the person family or a friend?

Generally, if this is the first contact between you and the person, you might want to use a formal tone. First impressions are important.

Avoid contractions and use the passive voice where appropriate for a more formal tone. You may consider using the recipient’s full name or their title. Also don’t forget to add your contact information.

If you have already engaged in correspondence with the person and they have replied in an informal tone, perhaps using “Hi” and your first name as a greeting, don’t feel uneasy about matching their informal tone.

One thing to keep in mind is that formal isn’t always the same as professional. In a work environment, it’s important to always remain professional, even when the tone is informal. Inappropriate jokes, negative comments and gossips have no place in business emails. Remember emails can easily be forwarded and once you send an email you can never take it back. Don’t get too comfortable, keep things professional at all times.

5 Things Every Business Proposal Should Have

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A business proposal is one of the most important documents you need to learn how to write. An effective business proposal does not get ignored.  After spending hours to put together a business proposal, why do some people get no results after submitting to potential clients while others seem to get a positive response? Successful business proposals include these five things:

 

A hook

First of all, your proposal must be able to catch the reader’s attention. To be effective, you must explain what your idea is and what it will mean for the reader. The reader will quickly lose interest if they don’t see how your proposal will benefit them. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and imagine what they would want to hear. Be careful not to exaggerate as this may undermine the trust you are trying to build with your reader.

 

A problem

Here, you tell your reader why they need your services. You identify issues or flaws with their business or a niche in the market that could be exploited. You’ll need to show that you completely understand the nature of the problem for your reader to trust you.

 

A plan

Your plan will show the reader just how you will solve the problem with your product or service. There’s a balance here to be found though. If you’re too specific and detailed, your idea may be taken and copied. If you’re too vague, you may not be taken seriously.

 

Your qualifications

It’s important that your reader knows what makes you qualified to solve a problem or help his or her business. Perhaps you may have academic qualifications in that area or you may have had years of experience working in that field. You must communicate this clearly to the reader so they can be convinced that you are the right person for the job.

 

Cost

Include all the costs involved in implementing your proposal. This will help the reader determine if they will be able to afford your services. It also helps the reader to determine how much they would benefit from doing business with you. The more ambiguous the costs involved, the less likely they are to accept your proposal.

 

 

Do These 3 Things Anytime You Have To Send a Business Email

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So you’ve typed out an email to a client and you’re about to send the message on its merry way. Not so fast though, make sure you’ve done these three things before you click send. Email mistakes are difficult to correct and can be costly or damaging to your reputation.

 

  • Proofread every lineEmails with typos are not taken seriously so have you done a spell check? Are you using proper sentence structure? Are the first letters of the first words in a sentence capitalised? Are all names spelt correctly? Refrain from using multiple exclamation or question marks. Also make sure all links in the email are working. And make sure the subject of the email matches the content. Don’t misrepresent the content of your email — it will annoy the recipient.

 

  • Read your email aloudMake sure you get the tone of your email right by reading your email aloud. Try to avoid using formatting to emphasise words. Instead, use words that reflect exactly what you want to say. Did you address the email receiver by name? Did you open the email with a courteous sentence? Did you conclude the email with at least one pleasantry sentence (e.g., have a great weekend, or best regards)? “Please” and “thank you” also give your email a nice tone. If you’re emotionally charged, give yourself some time to cool down so your emotions don’t creep into your work.

 

  • Check the recipients – Make sure you have all email addresses spelt correctly. Also refrain from using the “reply to all feature” or “CYA.” Reply directly to the sender as others may not be interested. If all recipients of the email do not know each other, use BCc instead of Cc.

 

You can now confidently send that email to your boss or a client.

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.

How to ensure your Emails are Read and Responded to Every Time

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When writing official emails, one cannot compromise on clarity, coherence, and precision. You want your email to be read and your message properly understood.  However, cramming your message into a single paragraph can make it harder to make sense of. Proper formatting, correct grammar and appropriate use of language make all the difference in getting your email read and responded to in good time.

The best way to properly format official emails is to write in short paragraphs and space them appropriately. Official emails are often kept short but sometimes you have more than one idea or message to communicate in an email. In an instance like that split the different ideas into clearly distinct paragraphs. When you have two or more ideas contained in one paragraph you stand the risk of losing the attention of the recipient. It is also easy to veer off topic if different ideas are crammed into a paragraph. Additionally, you can use bullet points to highlight important aspects or questions you would want your reader to take note of.

The rules of grammar and appropriate use of language in email writing are no different from the rules that are applied in other forms of official writing. In official emails, capital letters must be used appropriately. Each paragraph, for example, must begin with a capital, names of people and organisations must be capitalized appropriately. Aside this, the proper guidelines for signing off an email must be observed.

Read more about How to address and sign-off official emails here

Here is an example of a well-formatted email:

Dear Jojo,

From our meeting last Friday, I understood that next week’s seminar had been adjourned. Did you want me to call all the registered participants about this?

Also, what is our position on the issue of refunds?

I delivered a draft copy of the annual report to your office this morning, I look forward to your feedback and final edits. Thank you.

Best regards,

Akua