Effective communication is the cornerstone of forming and maintaining business relationships and your professional conduct and reputation. And while you'll encounter many types in the business world, including verbal communication, written communication is type you'll probably encounter most frequently.
You'll send emails many times per day. You'll write goals for performance evaluations, and if you manage others, you'll write their performance evaluations, too. You'll craft reports. You may create presentations, which, of course, start with the written word.
That's not to say verbal communication isn't important, too. Of course it is. However, in writing, you're creating an actual record of your correspondence that the recipient—and others—may be able to reference in the future, so you need your language to be top notch.
Whether you're writing a quick email or drafting a comprehensive business proposal, here are five strategies you should employ to communicate your purpose and message effectively.
1. Be concise.
Many writers have trouble shortening their prose. Unless you have no ideas for what to say, it's often easier to spill out everything on the page than to keep it short and sweet.
But in most professional communication, shorter is generally better. Get to the point quickly, rather than rambling. This will allow you to get your message across immediately, rather than risk losing your audience's attention before you've made your point.
Before you start writing your message, figure out what the purpose is and takeaway should be. That way, you'll have the meaning you need to get across in your mind as you write.
Try to be as clear and concise as possible. This may mean you'll need to revise even a short email to communicate your point. Each sentence should be short and to the point. If you can use one word in place of two, do it. This will prevent your audience from skimming or not reading your piece at all.
2. Keep your words simple.
Some people adhere to the principle of "Why use a one-syllable word, when a four-syllable one will do?" Don't be one of these people. You may think it sounds smarter to write "renumeration" than "money," but it doesn't; it makes you sound like you were looking for a more a more complicated word to use.
Rather than keeping the Thesaurus.com tab open when writing an email, essay, or any other professional (or personal) work, go with your instincts. Often, the more basic word is the better choice.
Of course, you should try to avoid using the same word repeatedly in a single paragraph or short piece of written communication. It's certainly acceptable to find a synonym in this case—just try don't throw in extraneous, complicated words for no reason.
3. Adhere to a style and structure.
Many businesses have a specific communication style they use for all written correspondence, copy, and any other piece of writing that comes from the company. Depending on the nature of the business and industry, your organization may follow AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago, or MLA (Modern Language Association) style. Some organizations create their own guidelines, usually based on one of these style manuals, and ask employees to refer to the parent guide for anything left off the list.
Writers should refer to their company's style guide for any business writing they do as a representative of the organization, including reports and proposals. If your company doesn't have a guide or preferred style manual, ask your manager for advice on whom to consult, or follow the style that is most commonly used in your industry.
For example, in psychology and other science fields, APA style is generally preferred, while in humanities-based companies, MLA and Chicago style are used more frequently.
4. Read your work over.
Even if you're a confident writer, reading over your work is a must. Not only will you catch errors this way, but you'll also notice areas that require further clarification or don't sound the way you want them to.
No matter what forms of communication you're using, you should always read over your written message. One good way to catch grammatical errors and make sure you're communicating your point clearly is to read your work aloud.
Your first go-around may not be your best. In fact, you'll probably need to rewrite parts your message several times in order to make it your best work.
That doesn't mean you have to thoroughly revise every simple email to a coworker. However, for important presentations, proposals, and other work that a recipient will be evaluating, revision is an essential component of the writing process.