In our business, every word counts. This holds true for writing, too—especially when it is intended for your clients and prospects.
As we all engage in our daily battles against time, often relying on messages fired through high-tech weapons such a BlackBerry or an iPhone, it appears that we have somewhat begun to grow accustomed to sending and receiving e-mails and even more formal correspondence with spelling errors.
Although many may overlook such mistakes and regard them as a consequence of our busyness, these mistakes can easily jeopardize established relationships with current clients or preclude new ones with prospects. As the title of my October 19, 2009 blog post states, “You’ve Got One Shot to Make a Good First Impression – Don’t Blow It!” So, make sure that all your correspondence with clients, prospects, vendors and the media is flawless. The way you communicate is exactly the way your key audiences perceive you and your business.
Here are seven most common errors in business writing and some guidelines on how to avoid them:
- Hello – How many times in your career have you knocked on a prospect’s door and barged in delivering your sales pitch without greeting the person? Sending an e-mail or a letter without a salutation is akin to walking into a potential client’s house or office without saying hello! It lacks the basic rules of respect and is simply unprofessional. Always begin your writing with a salutation.
- English! English! – An effective tactic to confuse your audience is to use jargon and acronyms. The majority of clients and prospects are far removed from our industry and they entrust you to help them understand services, products and strategies. The last thing you want to accomplish when reaching out to a prospect is to make him/her feel stupid. Take the time to spell out every acronym and explain every service and/or product. After many years in the business, I do not recall any of my clients being accused of being “too professional.”
- Size Matters – In business, different types of documents come in different formats and length. Contracts are lengthy, because they seek to cover every clause under the sun. Letters are usually a couple of pages, while e-mails are a few short and to-the-point sentences. Be aware of what you’re writing and keep the length of your documents standardized. Your final goal in any form of communication is to be heard (or read) by your key audiences.
- Just the Facts – Powerful business writing is concise, relevant and articulates concepts and ideas in an unambiguous and crisp language. When writing, stick to the facts and avoid unessential information. The latter will just make your writing gratuitously long, expose you to potential mistakes and be perceived as lacking the ability to prioritize your thoughts.
- You Said It – On the one hand, the Internet has made our professional and personal lives much easier. On the other, we are beginning to learn to tread very carefully in it, as it can haunt us for the rest of our lives. It feels like a ubiquitous Big Brother that magnifies and broadcasts whatever we do. Whenever you engage in any type of writing, assume that the whole world will read it. If you are not sure about what you’re saying, just don’t say it! Once your document ends up on the Internet, it will dwell there forever.
- Sign Here – Unlike blackmailers, who have a reason for not providing their names and contacts, failing to include a signature is as bad as foregoing a salutation in your correspondence. Clients and vendors may remember you based on the logo of your firm or your e-mail address. However, prospects do not know who you are and if they would like to follow up on your communication, they will have a hard time guessing your name and contacts.
- Check It – Nothing can taint the tone of a future relationship faster than a grammatically incorrect note laden with spelling errors. Computer programs like Word and e-mail programs feature built-in spell check. Use them! However, be aware that these programs do not catch ’em all. I’d recommend that you have someone else in your organization check your writing for errors.
i-Impact Group, Inc.