Business Writing Skills Part I: What Do You Want To Say?|
- By Linda Elizabeth Alexander
Many people are unfamiliar with business writing.
In truth, concise writing will build your business
because you will better connect with customers and
prospects. In this four-part series I will teach you
how to make your print and web communications, and
all business correspondence, clearer, understandable,
and more direct.
What Do You Want to Say?
By Linda Elizabeth Alexander
Whether you hate writing or love it, it always helps to plan
what you want to say. One method that has always helped
me is the rhetorical square -- a mnemonic device designed
to help you figure out what to say before you say it. I've
seen other words used, but the one I remember best is
Paws stands for "purpose, audience, writer, subject."
P.A.W.S. is most helpful when establishing the goals of the
piece you are writing and can be as formal and lengthy or
informal and brief as you like. Ask yourself these questions
the next time you sit down to write.
Purpose. What do you want to accomplish through
your writing? Every composition has its purpose,
even it it's just to finish an assignment. For
example, you may write a letter to convey
information, to sell something, or to say hi to an old
friend. You might write a brochure to inform
customers of a new product, explain your
company's mission to them, or to serve as an
advertisement for your services.
The most important thing you need to know in
order to communicate clearly through writing is whom you
are writing for. Who will read your writing? Your mother?
Your client base? Your boss? Every audience has a
different level of experience and education. For example,
when writing a report to your boss, you may share
company jargon that the average Joe doesn't understand -
because the average Joe won't be reading the report.
Similarly, you will communicate differently to your
employees and your customers.
Third, take into consideration the persona you
will assume when writing the piece. Think about the
tone you want to use and the image you want to present
to your audience. From what perspective are you
writing? What impression do you want to give your
readers? For example, if you get a new job, you will
want to announce it to your friends, your clients - and
your current supervisor. You wouldn't think of using
the same tone in all three letters, would you? You
might sound enthusiastic and informal with your friends
and enthusiastic and polite with your clients. Depending
on your relationship with your current supervisor, you
will probably be official and reticent with her or him.
Subject (or message)
How should you say it? The length or purpose of t
he piece lends itself to your subject. It's very
hard to fit a full-length board report on a post card;
at the same time, you wouldn't want to write a
memo about your travels in the jungle during
your summer vacation. Note that this the same as your
purpose: your subject or message is the content itself;
ask yourself what the piece is about and decide what is
the most appropriate format for it to take.
Good writers routinely analyze the four elements of PAWS.
Using it to prepare your writing, whether it's a personal
email, formal business report, or your best selling novel,
will improve your writing and get your argument across
Linda Elizabeth Alexander is a business writer specializing in web
and sales copy. Be a better writer! Subscribe to her FREE
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