Business writing tip – writing clearly (how to write to be understood)

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How often have you read an email or business letter and wondered what the writer is trying to say?

In this introductory sentence the writer says the following:

Perhaps you are not interested, or are worried there might be a catch (there are no free lunches, right?), but we are genuinely trying to do our bit by offering some of our capability, through a structured, 90-minute consultation session.

In this real example the writer is unclear about what she or he wants from the reader. It is unclear what “trying to do our bit” is all about. But, most importantly, what is the 90-minute consultation session? Even in the body of the email, nothing is clearly explained about what the consultation session is about. All one can gather is that it concerns “de-risking” (what a word!) a business.

This is one of many examples on unclear writing that businesspeople receive and send out every business day.

One research study found that managers spend more than 20 percent of their time writing business letters, memos and reports. The study also pointed out that the consequences of unclear or confusing written communication are costly errors, reduced productivity, lost business and lower morale. Unclear writing therefore has a direct impact on profits.

If you want to learn how to write clearly so that you can get things done in business, persuade colleagues and customers and reach important agreements, then consider the Better Business Writing Course from the Business Writing Academy.

You know how hard it is to write clearly in your emails and writing the wrong thing can upset colleagues and customers. I teach businesspeople to write with confidence and less frustration through quick practical tips and examples from my years of business experience.

As a parting thought consider that being unclear can, of course, be used for humorous effect. The great American comedian Groucho” Marx did so here:

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

We find it funny because Groucho is deliberately being unclear. Did he shoot an elephant while wearing pajamas? Or did he shoot an elephant that somehow got into his pajamas?

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