Write for Business - Blog

UpWrite Press understands the importance of writing skills in business: We're business people just like you. On this blog you'll find tips to improve your writing, along with topics of interest to our staff.

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    Tactics, Tweeting, and Business Writing

    Tuesday, May 07, 2013

    In On War, Carl von Clausewitz, a professional Prussian soldier, divided military activities into strategy and tactics.  Strategy involves the general goals of an operation; tactics are the details for getting there. For soldiering, a set of basic skills is also assumed: polishing boots, marching in formation, caring for weapons, and so on.

    Business writing can similarly be divided into strategy, tactics, and basic skills. Much of what UpWrite Press shares on this blog and in our newsletters is strategic: using an AIDA approach for persuasive writing, for example. We also often share basic skills in grammar, punctuation, and correct word use.  

    Today I’d like to focus on a tactical issue: using Twitter to develop effective sentence style.

    Why Twitter? It’s because of that 140-character limit. Writing within such constraints forces us to carefully weigh every word, every phrase. (Note, I originally wrote that as “forces us to consider every word, every phrase, very carefully”—nine wasted characters.)  With practice, that conciseness becomes habit—if not during a first draft, certainly when editing.

    • For best practice, write your “Tweets” (Twitter messages) in full words, without online abbreviations like “L8R” (“later”).
    • It’s also best to leave enough characters for a “Retweet.” For example, UpWrite Press Tweets are usually 127 characters or less, to leave room for the 13 characters in “RT @UpWrite: ” (including the space after the colon).
    • Finally, if your Tweet includes a hyperlink, try to place that in the middle of the message, where it’s less likely to get cut off if multiple people Retweet your message.

    A well-crafted Tweet can pack a lot of punch in a short line of text. Practice at Tweeting can improve our writing clarity and editing speed for other business documents. That alone makes it worthwhile. Given that it also promotes your brand presence, if you aren’t Tweeting, it may be time to start.

    —Lester Smith

    Photo from Wikimedia Commons

    Perfect Correspondence, in Spite of the Weather

    Wednesday, April 07, 2010

    We blame a lot of things on the weather. Have you ever noticed that?

    "Gosh, my knee's been aching. I think it's the rain. And the kids are squirrely, too. Must be that low front." Maybe this tact could work for our writing: "This letter is awful. Must be the dew point." Nope, doesn't make it. When it comes to poor writing - from its sketchy content to the last misplaced comma, the weather is no excuse.

    Here's a story for you. My aunt, born in 1914, was a secretary all her life, and from all reports, she was a highly valued employee. She had attended a small business college in her hometown, and I bothered to dig up a copy of the institution's catalog. At the top of the page introducing the faculty, this quotation appears: "He who cares not to do a thing hides behind the excuse that it cannot be done."

    Well, Aunt Elsie took the challenge. No one was going to tell her that perfection in her correspondence was impossible. When she finished a letter or report, her facts were straight, her t's were crossed, i's dotted, and spelling impeccable - and this was well before the days of word-processing programs, and in all kinds of weather. I guess she was an expert of sorts, having taken 60 hours of Business English, 85 hours of Business Writing, 30 hours of Spelling (yes, spelling), and who knows what else.

    Today, as always, we arrive in the workplace with varying degrees of talent and preparedness for the writing we must do. But there is help available - from writing handbooks and aids, both in print and online, to the invaluable resource of our coworkers. The peer review (a.k.a. getting help) does actually work. And there are still Aunt Elsie types in our midst, ready to read the paragraphs and sections we're stuck on and offer a few helpful comments.

    So, assuming you've nixed the old excuse that it can't be done, and ignoring the weather forecast, how do you personally bring your business writing to that coveted point of perfection?

    - Lois Krenzke

    Photo by Jsome1

    Perk Up Your Word Power!

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Read any good books lately? Try the dictionary - seriously. As a copy editor, I work with the dictionary almost nonstop, and I often get sidetracked, spotting words I've never heard of, reading the meanings, thinking, I've got to find a way to use this wonderful word - somewhere.

    Take the word "fubsy," for instance. I came across that word today, and I think it is a very friendly word. Try it in that common sentence you have probably uttered yourself a number of times: Gosh, I just feel so fubsy today. Now, I won't spoil the fun of your looking up "fubsy" for yourself; but I can tell you, I think the word runs circles around the nasty three-letter word it stands in for.

    Then there's "folkmoot." Just bear with me here. While this old English word may equate to a village or townhall meeting more than to a business meeting, I say, what a great word for those lovely gatherings we have all sat in, and sat in, and sat in some more. It feels better to say, "Sorry fellas, have to get to a folkmoot by 1:00 p.m. See ya later." You'll have them wondering, don't you think? They may even feel jealous, until they look up the word for themselves.

    Okay, so you aren't likely to use "fubsy" or "folkmoot" in business writing. Still, words like this can liven up the workday. More importantly, for every "fubsy" you encounter, you're sure to find a dozen other more business-like words to enrich your vocabulary. So why not do a little exploring?

    Do you already have a favorite word or two you can share with us? We'd love to hear about them! Just click on the comments link below to respond.

    - Lois Krenzke