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File #: 13778118 Close-up of Contract Old Toned Image of Signing contract shot with shallow depth of field. Studio shot. Credit: iStockphoto (Royalty-Free) Keywords: Legal System, Letter, Business, Contract, Signature, Law, Writing, Deed, Businessman, Human Hand, Document, Black, Text (iStockphoto)
File #: 13778118 Close-up of Contract Old Toned Image of Signing contract shot with shallow depth of field. Studio shot. Credit: iStockphoto (Royalty-Free) Keywords: Legal System, Letter, Business, Contract, Signature, Law, Writing, Deed, Businessman, Human Hand, Document, Black, Text (iStockphoto)

COMMUNICATION

Watch your (business) language Add to ...

Do u unnerstanme :-D

When it comes to business writing, too often the answer to that question (Do you understand me?) is “no.” This isn’t because most of us are trying to read documents in a foreign language that we don’t understand. It’s more likely because the writer is using language that doesn’t clearly communicate the message.

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Poor business writing can cause misunderstanding, offence and confusion for readers – but there are ways to prevent these problems.

Show respect

Tone is very important when it comes to writing. Extreme tones tend to alienate rather than engage people. For example, when we read a report that comes across as stiff and formal, we can feel as though the writer is patronizing us. A proposal or brief that is inappropriately casual may give us the impression the writer is sloppy or flippant. And a letter that sounds critical may simply generate resentment toward the writer.

For most types of business writing, it’s best to aim for the inoffensive middle ground. Use the same conversational and respectful tone as though the person to whom you’re writing is sitting down and discussing the topic with you.

This means your writing should be polite, professional and positive. Say you’re sending an e-mail to someone in order to solve a problem in this person’s area of responsibility. Instead of using an accusatory tone (“You should not have done that”), use impersonal words that focus on solving the problem rather than blaming the individual (“What suggestions do you have so we can prevent a similar problem in the future?”).

Stop the jargon

Bureaucratese: Upon receipt of this letter, you are herewith informed of the new policy …

Buzzwords: It’s trending. Blue-sky it. Manage the optics. Take it to the next level.

Legalese: It is arguable that the aforementioned circumstances …

Acronyms: The CEO, EVP and VP will assess KPIs and BPO to measure ROI.

These are all forms of jargon. And while some readers don’t mind jargon, most readers hate it.

There is a place for jargon, such as when you’re writing a document that will be read by others who understand the exact meaning of each word or term you use. Even then, you should use jargon with restraint.

More often than not, however, writers use jargon with the intention of impressing others. Unfortunately, this approach typically has the opposite effect. Jargon tends to make concepts more difficult for readers to understand by obscuring meaning rather than clarifying it.

Remember, the goal of business writing is to connect with the people who read our documents so they can easily understand what we’re writing about. So don’t use technical or slang words, terms or acronyms in the hope this will make you appear more intelligent. Simple, clear language will impress your readers more.

Good grammar is good

The success of a business lies on good financial records but they can be complex and time-consuming to prepare correctly weather you are a entrepreneur or a large corporation.

Huh? Sentences (or quasi-sentences) like this are a good example of why grammar is important. Would any of us want this individual to prepare our financial records? While we would expect someone who works in finance to be meticulous and professional, this individual’s spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors convey carelessness and ignorance.

Correct grammar helps your readers understand the true meaning of your writing. It also demonstrates that you pay attention to accuracy and detail – signs of a capable worker. Always take the time to check your grammar, including spelling (don’t rely on auto correct) and punctuation. Here are some online resources that you may find helpful:

Language Portal of Canada by the Government of Canada; HyperGrammar at the University of Ottawa’s Writing Centre; Purdue Online Writing Lab at Purdue University; and the Grammar Handbook from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Illinois.

The quality of our business writing matters more as we communicate less in person and more through technology. If you want to succeed in your career, be sure your writing reflects positively on your intelligence and capabilities.

Corinne LaBossiere is a communications specialist, writer and editor at CGL Communications who helps individuals and organizations communicate effectively.

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