Category Archive for ‘Improve Your Business Writing’

How to Get the Email Responses You Want

Have you ever written a detailed email to a colleague, only to receive a reply that ignored most or all of what you covered? Or have you waited weeks for a response from a client before giving up hope of hearing back? Chances are you have plenty of stories related to these frustrating situations.

Miscommunication, or a lack of communication altogether, is a problem faced every day in the business world. It not only wastes time, but it can also cause missed opportunities and lost profits. So how can you avoid this common problem?

3 Ways to Imitate the Greatest Writer of all Time

Shakespearean lessons for content creators

Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Hannah Comerford, Scribe Contributor

This week the world celebrates Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. Whether you hated reading Romeo and Juliet or you find yourself quoting sonnets regularly, chances are your vocabulary shows signs of his influence. Don’t believe me? Shakespeare Online attributes over 1,700 words to Shakespeare. From our everyday language to West Side Story, it’s nearly impossible to avoid Shakespearean references in our Western culture. Just think of all the royalties he’d be making if still alive.

Not many of us will earn undying success in the way Shakespeare did. Yet, content creators can glean business wisdom from his creative practices. Here are three ways Shakespeare became a literary legend.

Is Cyber-English Appropriate on the Job?

Have you ever found yourself typing “LOL” when writing to a client or employee and then decided against it? Are you unsure about using emoticons, abbreviations, or truncated sentences when sending emails or texts from your phone?

With today’s high speed messaging—email, status updates, instant messages, texts—many people are asking whether there’s now a place for breaking traditional grammar rules in business communication. Are emoticons, abbreviations, and truncated sentences ever appropriate at work?

Once Upon A Time: Using Story in Your Business Writing

by Hannah Comerford, Scribe Contributor

February 26 is Tell a Fairy Tale Day. You probably don’t have any celebrations lined up. In fact, you may even be wondering why we’re talking about fairy tales on a business writing blog. Are fairy tales, or storytelling in general, relevant to the modern business writer?

To answer these questions, let’s first discuss why fairy tales are popular in the first place. While fairy tales are usually associated with children, the popularity of prime time television shows that celebrate fairy tale characters suggests that maybe adults still enjoy hearing new spins on their childhood stories.

Here are just a few reasons why stories and fairy tales are so popular:

Build Credibility through Your Business Communications

Last week, our daily communication tips offered advice on how you can build credibility through your business communications.

Here’s a recap:

  • Learn your industry’s terminology and be able to explain it. Speaking the language demonstrates that you know your field.
  • Use specific facts. Vague statements and lack of data weaken your message; detailed information supports your claims.
  • Cite your sources. Skeptical readers can then research your claims and come to their own conclusions.
  • Use credible sources. Peer-reviewed publications and established experts are trusted over online sources like Wikipedia.
  • Anticipate and address questions and counterarguments. Show that you’ve thought through your ideas and statements.

This Fast Company article offers more advice on how to avoid trust busters that dilute your credibility.


How Technical Writing Can Benefit Your Business

If you are a small business owner and sell a product requiring a user manual, you probably recognize the value of good technical writing. You know that if your customers don’t understand how to use your product, they aren’t likely to buy from you again in the future. A good product or user manual can also reduce the time you spend responding to customer queries.

Perhaps your business doesn’t have a need for product manuals or user guides. Even if that’s the case, you may still want to develop proper documentation of your company’s internal processes and procedures. Providing well-written operations manuals or employee guides can help improve efficiency and minimize errors and downtime.

Technical Writing Tips

While it’s one thing to understand the importance of good technical writing, it’s another to actually know how to do it. What are the elements of good technical writing? What information does a user manual need to have to guarantee a customer will know how to use your product properly? How should an operations or employee manual be organized? And how do you best relay complex technical information in everyday language?

When to Break Your English Teacher’s Rules

by Hannah Comerford, Scribe Contributor

Today is National Teacher Day, a day to celebrate our teachers and their hard work. What our teachers taught us in English class is now a part of our subconscious, and we use the rules we learned in our everyday lives. Whether you liked diagramming sentences or hated spelling bees, your early lessons laid a foundation for your business writing.

However, as we grew older, the rules started to change. “I before E, except after C” added the stipulation, “or when sounded as A, as in neighbor and weigh.” Before long we realized that this didn’t even cover everything, and we simply gave up on the mnemonic altogether (at least I did!). Perhaps you’ve noticed this shift with other elementary school grammar rules: they’re often broken in the adult professional world. Why is this?

10 Word Slipups to Avoid

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.”   – Herbert Spencer, English philosopher (1820-1903)

As much as I’d like to think I have a way with words, I admit to the occasional slipup. Just the other day I sent an email to someone asking if I could “site” something she had said, rather than “cite” it. It wasn’t until after I’d sent the email that I recognized my error.

Sometimes our writing mistakes are things we would catch with closer review. Other times, we may not know or remember the correct usage or spelling. Add to this the fact that so much of what we read on the Internet is not formally edited, and we are also in danger of perpetuating the mistakes made by others.

Thankfully, my communication with this person was not business related. Had it been, my credibility likely would have been damaged. Although it is sometimes acceptable to intentionally misuse a word for the sake of great copy, careless mistakes or errors of ignorance can, as Herbert Spencer put it, “generate misleading thoughts.” Or worse yet, they can cost you a client.

Below are ten examples of commonly misused words. Are you guilty of misusing any of them?

Which Words Kill Your Productivity?

Here’s an interesting article from about how the use of words ending in -ing can harm your productivity. The authors mistakenly call these words gerunds, when in fact they’re talking about the present participle, but their point is still valid. (A gerund refers to the usage of a verb as a noun.)

Here’s a snippet, written specifically to entrepreneurs, but applicable to most of us:

The path to ruin for many entrepreneurs comes from a lack of accountability. It’s easy as an entrepreneur to get caught up in what you’re doing—as opposed to what you’ve accomplished and what you plan to do next.

Read the whole article here.

If you’re reporting to a client, colleague, or supervisor, make sure you let them know what has been accomplished and what is planned next, instead of just reporting on current activities.

If you’re an entrepreneur whose only “report” may be the one to yourself—planning your day and examining what you’ve accomplished already—check your to-do list for too many present participles. Because sometimes the most important communication is the kind you have with yourself.


Enjoy More Daylight: How to Streamline Your Email Communications

by Ashley Smith, Scribe Contributor

On Sunday, we sprang into spring by setting our clocks ahead one hour. This first day or two of Daylight Saving Time can bring mixed emotions—distress for having lost an hour of sleep, yet also excitement for having gained an extra hour of daylight (which for those of us living in the Pacific Northwest is a much-anticipated event).

I don’t know about you, but when springtime rolls around, I’d rather not squander the extra daylight sitting in front of a computer, writing and checking email. And let’s face it, between the personal and business email we send and receive every day, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. So what can you do to keep your email burden light?

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