7 second, 140 signs to get attention, can you do that? Writing is not about putting words on paper or in digital form. Writing is about having an impact. At it’s best it creates very strong emotions. Emotions which then convert to thoughts and eventually to actions. There are some rules, that help everyone to become better in business writing!
I have so often heard people say “I am not a writer”. People, who are great in telling about their passion, their hobby or their children! There is a conflict in these two! What is the dark side of this, is the point that as we allow the belief of “I’m not a writer” to take over, we stop writing. Becoming a writer is about practice. Did you know, that most professional writers need 3 – 5 rounds, before their text is publishable? No, they don’t rewrite their material 3 – 5 times, they review it and make some adjustments on it. You are writing emails, memos, proposals and so on. How can you ensure, that your message gets delivered in the way you thought?
There are 4 steps to take, that help you. You don’t need to become Hemingway or Tolstoi, you just need to get your message better understood. When you are better understood, your customers will buy more. People will be able to commit and engage to your goals, to your success. These are more dependent on your writing today, and tomorrow, as they used to be! So, have a look at the following ideas and make the most out of them. The first thing to look at, is the length of your text. Too short means that there is too much space for error and wrong assumptions. Too long and of the target, you lose the reader. Then you need to identify your bad habits. Without feedback, you don’t even know what went wrong. Without peer review, you don’t know if you are on the target.
Step 1! Finns are not famous for their small talk. When we write, we sometimes forget that we have only small portion of communication in our hands. Therefore you need to review your text, are you covering all the essentials in it? Are you writing to someone who has the same knowledge base as you do? If not, make sure that you don’t assume some things and hence leave them out of your text. The answer is not to put all you can think of in the text. Doint that will lead to the point, where the other person gets overwhelmed by the information and hence doesn’t read it with focused mind. Could you significantly improve understanding of your text by putting more information in it? Are you still in the volume, which truly is usable in the other persons time frame? Could you cut down some sentences without losing the important message you want to convey?
Step 2. I have a bad habit. My English teacher loved what they call the “queens English”. That is about using passive sentences and imprecise language. That was fine in the days, when most of the communication was face to face and letters were longer and almost pieces of art. Today there is much less time for learning about other people. Information flow is hitting us harder every day. We don’t have time to evaluate or to read “between the lines”. We take it as it comes, with our prejudice. To get your message across, you need to be clear and targeted. If you want action, be precise, like “call me tomorrow at 14.07”.
Step 3. Regardless of who your send your message to, you benefit of a review. The more important the message, the more important the review (and if the message is not important, why to send it?). A memo within an organization, should be reviewed by someone else, preferably not your closest peer. A letter to customers, have some trusted people to give you feedback on it. We often say “but I don’t have time for that”. The main reason, we don’t have time for those action is that we failed in the earlier messaging and need to spend time fixing the problems caused by it. Review is about getting it more right in the first place. And, with customers, it might just be about making or killing your future success.
Step 4. Review is one thing, feedback is another. You need to collect feedback on your writings for a couple of purposes. First in order to understand how you really were understood. And secondly to ensure, that your writing is coherent over time. Becoming understood is the core of your writing and no one is perfect on that. Coherence means, that people will read and trust you better. The better you are understood and the more people read and trust you, the more successful you will be and the more you will get accomplished!
Using emotional intelligence is what writing is about. If you don’t understand your personality, you might be trying to be a copy of someone else. That means there is an increased risk of failing in your communication. Your coherence is based on your personality. So, what is your natural approach to creating written material? Are you using it, or fighting against it? if you are high on empathy and influence, there is a risk of over writing. The way to see, how your emotional intelligence features impact your writing, is to look back. How have you been writing? How does that look like, when you reflect it with the 4 steps of improving your writing?
People trust people, who they feel to be authentic. As you write something, the first thing to do is to look at your own thoughts about the content and the goal. Do you really believe in it? If not, then the review becomes more important. We all may sometimes have to write something which we don’t fully believe in. Our subconscious mind works and has an impact on the content. Ask your review person, what feeling does that text create in him/her? If the answer is “bad” or “I’m not sure”, then work on the text a bit more!
Your partner in making change happen, Kari I. Mattila, emotional intelligence advisor