by Tash Hughes of
When running a
small business, time is limited and there are many tasks
to be done. Most business owners understand the
importance of appearing professional and making a good
business owners don’t always remember that anything they
write and give to potential clients is also part of
their presentation. Thus, it is essential to make your
documents professional too.
tips apply to documents as simple as a quote or order
and as complex as a tender or annual report.
packages will spell check your work for you, and
everyone therefore expects your work to be perfect in
this regard. Don’t forget, though, a spelling or typing
error can be missed by spell check so a manual check is
spell check will accept “quiet short” instead of “quite
short” or “the boy” instead of “the buoy,” yet they mean
very different things.
was in a recent newsletter: “Thank yuo all for your
patients during this time.” It had nothing to do with
medical clients, by the way, but that’s what it says...
A little more effort would have produced a more
professional newsletter for clients.
everything you write is accurate – if in doubt, leave it
out or qualify it.
“we expect delivery to take two weeks but will inform
you of any delays” is better than “they will arrive in
two weeks” if you are unsure.
care to be accurate about your clients – don’t call them
the wrong name or misspell a name, as that will be
remembered more than your words.
careful not to generalise – avoid words like all,
every, never, best and only as they can be
easily proven wrong.
There is no
need to call a snow white or a snail slow, and to do
so makes the writer seem silly and ignorant.
of this are “at this moment in time”, “ new
innovations”, “the one single reason”, “an added bonus”
and “9am in the morning.”
I saw a
newsletter the other day where the editor wrote “by
yours truly … me” and it made her appear stupid and
lowered the credibility of all she went on to say.
This can also
expand to obvious explanations, such as “had a smile on
her face” (where else would a smile be?) and “looked up
at the sky” (the sky is obviously up.)
If the words
and ideas don’t move from point to point in such a way
to be clearly understood, a reader will have to work
hard and become discouraged. Aim for simple sentences
and don’t include irrelevant information.
A simple test
for checking if your words make sense is to read them
aloud – your eyes may miss an error, but your ears won’t
- or read it backwards.
The use of form
letters is acceptable, but make sure they are not overly
general or unsuitable for some clients.
I once received
a form letter from my old school, which was obviously
written with school parents in mind as it discussed
“helping your child develop.” It was irrelevant to me
and prevented me donating as they wished.
Your choice of
language is also important. Using technical terms and
difficult words may show you have a great vocabulary,
but will stop many people understanding what you’ve
written. Likewise, using the latest slang and street
language is likely to upset an older conservative
and each document needs to be written to suit the
audience. However, it is never appropriate to use
swearing and derogative terms in business documents.
It is also not
appropriate to say negative things about competitors –
apart from possible legal problems, it is unprofessional
proof read your writing before it becomes public. If
unsure, then get someone else to check it as well.
documents or ones to be used repetitively, consider
having a professional writer or editor help you. The
benefits may astound you.
Tash Hughes is
the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses
in preparing all written documentation and web site
content. Tash also writes parenting and business articles for
inclusion in newsletter and web sites.