Writing official, personal and business documents
We get a lot of enquiries asking for help and advice on how to write official and personal documents, so I have written this in response, and hope you find it helpful.
Throughout your life there will be occasions when you need to write letters and make applications, such as CVs and covering letters, letters of resignation, applications for funding or scholarships, or internships.
And at work you might also be required to write Business Plans and proposals, maybe contact reports, Meeting Minutes, Sales reports, or even perhaps Sales forecasts. We will look at some of these in detail here.
The popularity of social media and texting has made communication quite informal. People regularly use slang and shorthand, deliberately misspell and shorten words, insert emoticons and use abbreviations. Communication is made less clear, but can be clarified during the exchange.
In the world of business and academia, people expect writing to be less casual and more professional. There is not the same opportunity to clarify points, so communication should be able to fulfil its function of clear exchange of information.
And first impressions count. If your writing isn’t good, and you make basic mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation, then people’s opinions of you will be poor. They may regard you as less business like if than if your writing was correct and professional at all times.
With all the documents we are talking about there are no hard and fast rules. There are some conventions, particularly with formal letters. But they are only customary and accepted practices. The point is to convey the required information clearly.
Your writing should be targeted
It is useful to think about who you are writing for. You would adopt a different tone and use different language if you are writing for a client rather than to your Management team. You might use a different style if you are writing for the public, or to your employees.
Each situation calls for different writing styles. Consider your audience’s background, and also their knowledge of the subject being discussed.
Be wary of using technical language, and also jargon, shorthand or acronyms. Your audience may not understand them and you will not convey your message clearly.
Keep your writing Style professional and objective. Be clear what the document is trying to convey, and ensure you have communicated your message clearly and effectively.
If you are writing a letter that forms part of a series about a topic, then in your letter, refer to their letter to you. This puts your letter into context for them.
Your ref 1234xyz
“Thank you for your letter dated 10 May 2016, in response to my query on abc “
Use references if you are responding to someone who has used one in writing to you. Use any reference they have assigned to the matter.
If you refer to a product and you know their product or catalogue number, use that number.
Keep it brief
These days everyone is in a rush, they are busy, so they don’t want to read a wordy document, but remember do give enough information to effectively communicate the message. Include all the relevant facts and figures, instructions and deadlines.
- Check any information is correct. Ask someone to “sense check” the document. It is almost impossible to check your own work.
- Then proofread it yourself as well, and get your helper to do that too, as well as checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
- Always remember your professional reputation depends on your accuracy and the impression your work creates. Mistakes might cost you time, a place on a course, a sponsorship , or internship.
- So check your presentation – it is very important, as important as the content of the document.
- Make sure the content is clear, and doesn’t contains any errors, either factual or grammatical.
If a document is worth writing then make it the best it can possibly be!