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    Five Elements for Best Business Writing

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Q. How can you improve your business writing and speaking? 

    A. Understand that every communication involves five basic elements.

    1. The message: This is what you want to get across. Sometimes we’re not clear ourselves. Writing a draft or two can solve that problem.
    2. The medium: This is the “delivery system”—an email, a memo, a report, a telephone conversation, a speech. Each has its particular strengths and weaknesses to consider.
    3. The context: This is the larger situation around the message. It may include client history, previous messages about the topic, the current financial climate, and so on.
    4. The sender: This is you. As a writer or speaker, you bring a package of skills and knowledge to the task. But you also bring your own suppositions and blind spots.
    5. The receiver: This is who you want to affect. This person also brings a package of skills, knowledge, suppositions, and blind spots to the table—different from your own.

    The Real Secret Is #5
    In two decades of publishing and of teaching writing, the problem I’ve most often seen (including my own communication) is a matter of writing “from” a perspective instead of “to” a perspective. Put another way, the sender is focused on delivering information instead of meeting a receiver’s needs.

    This is why so many messages—from ad copy to company mission statements—fall flat. They’re all about “me” instead of “you.”

    This can’t be emphasized enough. Look through your messages before making them public. Take note of every “I” or “we” and consider how you could recast the sentence to address “you.” Soon you’ll begin to anticipate your receiver’s needs and questions. You’ll be able to provide those answers, and avoid off-topic details.

    You’ll come across as a trusted communicator. And that’s good for business.

    —Lester Smith

    Photo: by rumpleteaser