Are You Writing For Yourself?

My colleague, friend, mentor and coach, Betty Cooper, always tells her clients, “Write to express, not to impress.” How about you? Are you writing to impress or express? Too much of what I read seems to be to impress. Let me show you how competent I am! Let me tell you how much research I’ve done! Let me demonstrate my brilliance!

Frankly, I don’t care how brilliant you are. I care about how your writing can help me. In this case, it is all about me … your audience.

To write for your audience requires focus on action. In business we communicate to get action from someone else. So, your first step in writing is to determine what action you want your reader to take. If you don’t know what the action is, don’t write. Save yourself and your reader some time. As a first step, put a plan in place so the outcome is of value to you and your reader.

The next step is to communicate in the way your reader wants you to communicate. If your reader, your audience, wants an e-mail, send an e-mail. If your reader wants a person-to-person connection, connect via phone or in person. Don’t default to the easiest method … for you! An e-mail or text may be quick but if it’s not getting results, it’s a waste of time.

The third step is to follow-up. “Well, I sent you an e-mail and you didn’t do what I asked!” Are you sure I got the e-mail? Did your subject line get my attention over the other 200 e-mails I got yesterday?

It’s not my responsibility to follow-up to ensure you communicated well. It’s your responsibility, if I haven’t responded to your request, to follow-up to make sure the communication loop is complete.

Back to my original question, are you writing for yourself or your audience, the person or people you want to move to action?

Garth Roberts     www.garthroberts.com

The Magic of “Thank You”!

With a little thought and planning I can start or finish almost every e-mail I write with thank you. These are two of the best words in the english language. In writing they help you focus on your readers. The readers, after all, are what your writing is all about. You want action from each reader and the best way to get action is to make your writing, and speaking, all about your audience. Let’s face it, we’re more likely to do something for someone if that person has made it obvious there’s something in the action for us, as well as for the person requesting the action.

In business writing seminars I find most of the participants don’t use or under use, thank you and its close cousins, please, and you’re welcome. Politeness isn’t just for the fancy restaurants and your great aunt Martha. Politeness works with clients and colleagues. In addition, thank you puts the focus on the client or colleague.

Next time you write an e-mail reflect on how you can thank someone. Try one of these or adapt them to fit your situation.

  • Thank you for your request for information on …
  • Thank you for providing me with the material on …
  • Thank you for pointing out our error. I have taken the following steps to correct …
  • Thank you for considering …

Incidentally, the proper and most effective response to thank you is, “You’re welcome,” not, “No problem”. If I thought it was a problem, I wouldn’t have asked you to do something!

For information on Writing For Business seminars in September and October, please e-mail me at garth@garthroberts.com.

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Is Reading Affecting Your Writing?

I’m halfway through a business writing seminar and I’m seeing participants who are having problems writing because they’re not reading correctly. One particular e-mail exercise seems to cause grief for participants. The facts are laid out and include a couple of suggestions. Individuals and groups get confused with the information. They seem to get confused for two reasons.

  1. They don’t take the time to clarify the information that’s in front of them. They’re given time and several suggestions about pre-writing and brainstorming. Still they miss obvious points they could include in their e-mail.
  2. They don’t think from the reader’s point of view. Writing is only effective if you think from the reader’s point of view. That’s who you want to take action.

Out of six groups who wrote an e-mail, only two included all the information available to them. The others got sidetracked by logistics as it related to them as writers, rather than focusing on the action they want the reader to take.

All of us have probably had individuals reply and ask for clarification when we written to them. Drop a comment as to how you deal with such a situation.

Garth Roberts             www.garthroberts.com

Are You A Lifelong Learner?

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I conducted a continuing education class in business writing. Eight participants showed up to learn how to improve their business writing skills. As I went around the room to discover why they were in the class, I was pleased to learn how many of them are lifelong learners. Only a couple of people were there because their boss or supervisor suggested that they be there. I like it when people come to class because they want to be there not because they have to be there.

The term “lifelong learner” has been around for a long time and more and more I see people in all types of jobs expanding their education. That bodes well for the workforce. In a previous blog I talked about the concept of having a workforce that’s made up of innovators in North America. We can’t be the innovators if we aren’t continually learning and expanding our minds. How about you, what was the last program or course you took? Why did you take it? How did it help you? I look forward to your comments.

Garth Roberts   www.GarthRoberts.com