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If you have an office job of any kind, chances are that much of your time involves writing. As you advertise products and services, write business reports, executive summaries or marketing documentation, correspond with partners, and communicate with customers, your written communication skills come into play.
In order to be a successful businessperson, you should never underestimate the importance of quality writing. When you make mistakes, not only do you annoy your reader, but you also put the reputation of the entire company at stake. In fact, some of your company’s customers and partners might even leave if you communicate badly and carelessly. The following article will highlight seven annoying written mistakes and give you some tips on how to avoid them.
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1. Not Knowing Your Audience
Many people tend to forget to whom they are writing. However, without sufficient knowledge of their audience, their messages are often completely pointless. As a professional, you need to know your audience and write about things they are interested in. Make an effort to get to know them. Who are they? What do they expect? What information should you convey to them? These are all question you can ask yourself prior to crafting your message. If you don’t, you will probably not achieve the desired effect. Imagine writing an article about corporate culture for a teen magazine. Failure? Very likely.
Always do your research. For example, if you are sending an email to an individual, take a moment to research that person so you can optimize your style for the recipient and address them by their name. The same guidelines apply when writing reports – know who your reader is and what they expect. No matter what you are writing, keep your audience in mind and center your message on their expectations.
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2. Setting the Wrong Tone
When you know your audience, you are able to set the right tone of your message and employ an appropriate writing style. Otherwise, you risk being misunderstood or even ignored. For example, if you write in a formal style to young, casual people, you might fail to grab their attention. Similarly, an older, more professional audience might take offense if you speak casually and throw in some slang.
So what can you do? First off, bear in mind to always adjust your tone to the recipient of your message. For instance, when communicating with a person with whom you have a history, you can review past emails and letters to get an idea of an acceptable tone to use for your new message.
What you should also do is strive to achieve some balance between casual and formal writing style. You can use humor, but only sparingly – keep in mind that different people might feel offended by something you think is funny. Never use sarcasm because it can cause hurtful feelings. Finally, refrain from using too many exclamation marks to avoid seeming immature and unprofessional.
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While immersed in your daily job routine, you often use words that only have relevance in your industry. However, when you write to other people, avoid this jargon unless you are confident that your audience is familiar with the inner workings of your business. Otherwise, people will not understand you.
You should also avoid sounding too academic, so leave out any fancy words and elaborate phrases. You don’t want your written communication to seem pretentious, and you definitively don’t want your readers to feel patronized or bored to death.
Furthermore, many businesspeople have used certain words so often that they now sound like the corniest clichés. Words like "synergy," "innovation," and "tireless efforts" have become relatively meaningless, so choose to eliminate them from your written material altogether. An accurate, simple, and concise writing will effectively communicate your message.
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4. Too Much or Too Little Text
The length of your written material can also be a recipe for disaster. For example, if you write too much, you might lose the point you´re trying to make and your readers might lose interest. However, when a situation warrants a lengthy text, split it into small chunks and short paragraphs, and use subheadings to identify your primary topics. That way, you will make it easier for your readers to digest it. On the other hand, short messages can also cause problems. If your brevity prevents you from communicating your message clearly, you will fail.
Find the right balance between long and short pieces of text. Provide sufficient information, but don’t go into painful details. State your main points and make your agenda clear throughout a well-structured piece of writing. If necessary, begin with an introduction that summarizes the purpose of your writing, and conclude with a recap of your key takeaways. All in all, say what you need to say, but avoid both haiku and epic lengths.
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5. Being Selfish
Although selfishness isn´t usually associated with writing mistakes, being selfish can cause you to lose your readers. Do you think that people want to read about you and your company? Beep, wrong. Quite the contrary, most of them are interested in their own benefits. So, whenever you address people, show them that you have their best interest in mind.
For example, if you write marketing material, don’t only praise your products and services hoping to make a sale. What you should do instead is engage your customers with content that can help them solve the problems they have in their professional or personal life. When you write with an emphasis on serving others rather than selling, the sales will take care of themselves.
Even when you respond in writing to customer service issues, take a friendly and respectful approach with a sincere desire to resolve people´s problems and address their concerns. Every successful businessperson knows that great customer service creates free word-of-mouth marketing, so encourage it with your writing.
Finally, if you are making a request in an email, make sure to offer some value first. Let your recipient know what´s in it for them if they decide to help you. There is no good communication without selfless communication.
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6. Inaccurate or Outdated Information
When you supply your audience with information that is incorrect or obsolete, you make a terrible mistake and risk coming across as unreliable and unprofessional. Since you want people to see your company as a credible and authoritative, spend some time researching your topics using valid resources.
Statistics lose their value over time, as do the names you use while compiling reports. If you don't verify the accuracy of your material, you make yourself look bad and you embarrass your company. Don't jeopardize your reputation simply because you don't have the discipline necessary to check your facts and verify your sources. Surely, you know better than that.
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If you want to succeed in any kind of business that involves writing, you need to avoid the above listed writing mistakes. When you write for your audience, always use the right tone, choose appropriate words, and communicate your message clearly. Make sure to provide value supported by information that is accurate and up-to-date. You should also avoid composition errors that lead to questions about your intelligence and authority. Put the necessary effort into your written communication, and you will always make a good impression.
About the Author: Joe Peters is a freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast from Baltimore, also interested in all things business-related. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about latest apps and gadgets or binge-watching his favorite TV shows. Feel free to reach him on Twitter.