Business writing tips – can writing apps teach you to write?

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I had a chat yesterday to a long-standing friend from the UK who was a colleague with me on an 18-month cadet reporter course we attended with a Johannesburg daily newspaper.

On the course we learned to write from a veteran journalist who told us how to interview and write news stories while in the afternoon we learned to type and did speed hand at a college in the city.

Back then, we didn’t have writing tools except what we assimilated on working for newspapers, an English dictionary and various books to check out facts (beyond from what we obtained from interviewing people).

Common to both of us was a love of good writing whether non-fiction or fiction. My friend still sends me a copy of my favourite well-written paper, the Private Eye.

These days many writing apps are available to help your writing. According to a research report, the global writing enhancement tool market is driven by a “rise in the need for improving English writing skills owing to the increasing adoption of English as an official business language worldwide”.

The number of tools is too long to list here but these are some of them: Grammarly, Reverso, Ginger Software, WhiteSmoke, Hemingway Editor, Virtual Writing Tutor, GrammarCheck, After the Deadline & AutoCrit.

One thing this writing apps don’t do is to teach you to write. You may have learned to write at school (a good foundation for spelling and grammar) but it’s hardly enough to go into writing for publication or in business. To bring your writing up to a level that is required in today’s electronic communications in business you would need to attend a course at one of the universities or find something online that meets your needs.

A business writing course needs to teach you to structure your writing, understand your audience, opening sentences and closing sentences, style and tone and self-editing among other things. In addition to this, you should at least know the following:

·A simple question you must ask yourself before you commit anything to writing
·An approach to writing which is impossible for most business people but easy when you know how
·An exclusive look into messaging in the lightening speed of digital communications
·A simple “laundry list’ of things you must do to organise your facts and figures into a from that gets your reader’s attention
·The scary side of business communication and what you must do to prevent risking your reputation and career

If you’ve read this far, here’s one business writing tip that will save you time and frustration. Take a pen or pencil, switch off your laptop and cellphone, sit in a quiet place and write your important email as you would talk to a friend. When you’re finished, let the email cool off (preferably for at least a day) and then go through it checking for structure, sense and style.

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