I love watching professional tennis matches: the impressive strategizing, the physical feats, and the sheer intensity of play. And even though pro tennis players make their incredible skill and athleticism look like second nature, of course it takes an enormous amount of effort and training to reach that level.
The fact is, being a pro at anything — whether it’s tennis or business writing — requires concentrated effort, discipline, and the desire to excel. Although no one expects a businessperson to be a fully professional writer, it’s essential in business to do your best to write like a pro.
In order to write like a pro, first you need a clear understanding of good versus bad business writing, which you’ll learn in our business writing courses. Just as an aspiring tennis player can distinguish between good and bad playing, you must know the difference between excellent and poor-quality writing. First, a few pointers about what good business writing is not.
Good business writing is not:
1.Using complicated words or jargon in an effort to impress.
2. Padding communications with too many words.
3. Writing long sentences that drag on and on.
4. Careless (or non-existent) punctuation.
Unfortunately, I’ve read far too many emails that include all of the above qualities. Here’s just one example:
Just had a look at Joe’s presentation and it seems to me that he should change probably more than a few things for the betterement in preparationing for our meeting next week. Our goal is the encouragement of the acceptance of our proposal. We need to make sure we present the best possible solution in the best way possible to encourage that success.
What’s wrong with the above email?
1. “Hi there” is too casual an address in a business email. It sets a sloppy tone, when it would be better to simply use a polite “hello” or “hi.”
2. Dropping the personal pronoun (“I”) at the beginning of the first sentence also comes across as sloppy.
3. The first sentence is too long and lacks punctuation.
4. “Betterment” is misspelled, and “preparationing” is not a word.
5. “The encouragement of the acceptance” is an awkward, complicated phrase. Do you know what it means? No, nor do I.
It isn’t difficult to rewrite the above email and make it clear, professional, and polite. Have a look at this rewritten version, below.
I just had a look at Joe’s presentation. I think he should change one or two things to help us look better prepared in our meeting next week. We want the proposal to be accepted. So we should make sure we present the best possible solution, as clearly as possible.
What’s right about the above email?
1. It’s polite and to the point.
2. The sentences are short and easy to understand.
3. The most important information is presented first.
4. The email uses correct spelling and punctuation.
Writing like a pro in business means understanding that unlike descriptive writing, business writing is best when it is direct and to the point. It all comes back to Plain Language, something I’ve written about in the past in the pages of the Financial Post.
Remember, no one expects you to write the way Rafael Nadal plays tennis. But you do want to write as though you have at least gone beyond the equivalent of the National Tennis Rating Program level 1.0!