Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Style relates to more than just fashion!

Why does my writing style matter? 

Using words, whether written or spoken, is our way of communicating with others. When communicating, it is important to understand the impact that your communication can have. The words that you choose, and the way that you use them, can be the key to successfully or unsuccessfully delivering your message.

Getting the message across in business could be making the sale, responding clearly to enquiries, explaining your business, responding to complaints or explaining something to a colleague; each one of these are different situations in which the way you communicate is incredibly important. Getting our message across in personal situations is about developing relationships and presenting ourselves in the best possible light, and is equally important. We must aim to always use accurate, clear and high-quality information at all times.

Remember: No-one writes perfectly, which is why it is always vital to check your written work multiple times.

How do I write effectively?

         Know your audience

When you are writing you need to think about who will be receiving your message. Before you start writing you should ask yourself:

Who is the audience? (roles, genders, ages, profession)
What do they know about your topic?
What do they need to know?
What questions would they have?
How will your message impact them?
Would they prefer quick facts and “executive summaries” or lots of detail?

You should use the responses to help you decide how you will write the content.

         Know what you are trying to achieve

What are you trying to achieve through this content? What you want to achieve affects the way in which you write your content. You should ask yourself:

What is your objective?
What do you want people to know? (do they really need to know all that?)
What do you want people to feel? (to feel excited, like they belong?)
What do you want people to do? (change the way they work, take action, send feedback?)

If you do not want people to do anything with the communication, you should ask yourself whether there really is a need to communicate.

         Choose the correct 'tone'

When we communicate face-to-face we are able to use a number of things to help us convey the meaning, such as our body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. When we are writing we only have our words. This means that we have to be incredibly careful in the way that we express ourselves through our writing.

There are a number of techniques you can use to get the right tone:
(Examples by Ellen Hake (2010) “Language and tone”)

         Use engaging language

Controlling language
Engaging language
You are required to
You need to
If you have a valid excuse
Can you explain what happened
You misunderstood
I didn't explain that clearly

         Talk about a positive result

Negative result
Positive result
To avoid delivering it late
So that we can deliver it on time
You haven't given us enough information
We need you to give us more information
The project doesn't have enough money
The project needs more money

         Talk to one person

To the group
To one person
As most people know
You may know that
To our clients
Dear client
Which of you has been
Have you been

         Use stories and examples

Stories and examples
20,000 homeless
Gillian who lost her job, then her flat when she got sick.
Experience counts
Last year, George was faced with a crisis, but with 20 years in the field he knew...
Businesses benefit hugely from advertising to students
Company X was trying to generate further revenue. They approached BAM to help them target the student market. X, Y and Z were the positive results that they achieved.

         Adapt your tone to the situation

Please send the form by 16th July
You need to send the form by 16th July
Send the form by 16th July to avoid penalties
You owe £100 because you did not respond by 16th July
Let's talk about what you need to do to make the booking

         Keep it simple

Despite what you may naturally think, plain language is often better received than using complex sentence structure and fancy words. Cut out unnecessary words and break down long sentences into shorter ones. Where you can use active verbs instead of passive to make it sound more personal:

Passive: It was decided/ The decision was taken
Active: We decided

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's blog and I also hope that some of these pointers will help everyone to be clearer and more engaging in their written communication. As always, do feel free to comment or send me any of your own ideas on this topic!

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