Regardless of the title that appears on our business cards, most of us are professional writers in some capacity. Don’t believe us? Try sending your next work email with only animated gifs to guide your message. Bruce Kasanoff’s recent LinkedIn article “Five Tips That Can Double Your Salary” got us thinking about the many ways in which we — completely inadvertently — make writing choices that tank our chances at promotions, raises, and the respect of our colleagues. We went through his tips one by one and came up with examples of what not to do, in terms of your business writing, if you want to be a success.
1. He said: Have a repeatable message.
You: Feel free to ramble for paragraphs without getting to your point. In fact, don’t bother figuring out what the goal of your message is, before you sit down to compose it.
2. He said: Know your audience.
You: Don’t ask yourself who you’re speaking to and what you’d like them to do when they’re done reading. Dash off an email that could just as easily be to your spouse or your college roommate as much as your boss.
3. He said: Be powerful, not passive.
You: Passive is the voice for you. Make sure that, in the world of your email, decisions are made and consensuses reached. If anyone can find a declarative statement, failed you have, Yoda.
4. He said: Use examples.
You: Feel like it’d be faster just to skip that part. That’s because you haven’t sat in a meeting full of people who won’t believe a word you’re saying until they’ve seen charts, graphs, and a PowerPoint presentation. On the one hand, good for you for making it this long without having to go through that. On the other hand, trust us when we say it’s faster just to provide examples right off the bat.
5. He said: Use more pictures and fewer words.
You: Want to know why we made fun of animated gifs a few minutes ago, if it turns out pictures are secretly so important. Sorry about that. While it’s a bad idea to rely solely on images to get your point across, a well-chosen picture is worth, well, let’s say three paragraphs or so. Especially if you’re presenting to a crowd, breaking up text with images engages your audience and shows that you’re interested in expressing your ideas in a way that’s easy to understand.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s your least favorite business writing faux pas? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.
(Photo Credit: digidreamgrafix/Flickr)