As social media infiltrates our daily life, good writing and communication skills are becoming more relaxed. While we don’t need to follow Victorian-era etiquette in our correspondence, we should still maintain certain standards to keep our messages clear and professional.
Be appropriate and accurate. Email has relaxed the rules on how we communicate. It is tempting to be less formal when writing an email than a printed letter. Regardless of the end product, use appropriate salutations and formatting when contacting someone you’ve never dealt with. Also, be sure to run spell check and use proper grammar. Nothing ruins credibility faster than sloppy writing.
Know your audience. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting where acronyms and insider knowledge was batted around like a Badminton shuttlecock, than you know what is like to feel like an outsider. Be clear when you write – or speak – defining your term the first time and then switching to acronyms.
Example: “Parts Per Million are defined on the report. Engineers expect the PPM count to be accurate.”
Even if you are writing a technical article for a technical audience, avoid the jargon. You never know who your reader might be.
Get to the point. A recent article in a major business magazine encouraged email writers to be direct in their messages – almost to the point of being rude. The article discouraged the use of pleasantries and email “chit chat” in favor of direct communication. While the advice on how to write messages was, in my opinion, a tad extreme, the notion of not rambling is valid. Electronic conversations can feel burdensome to overworked individuals. Consider just giving the necessary information and save socializing for another time.
No spamming. If you think you are allowed to send your business promotions to everyone you just met at a trade show or anyone in your email contacts database, think again. CAN-SPAM laws cover all commercial messages, including email that promotes content on commercial websites. Business-to-business email is included, too. So, if you want to send a message about your new product line, make sure you follow the rules or you are spamming. (Visit the Federal Trade Commission website to learn more – http://business.ftc.gov.)
Declutter cyberspace. Do you have a burning idea for an article you are sure will change the lives of your clients? Before you create that e-newsletter or blog post, be sure of your reason for writing it. The Internet is bursting with information (too much sometimes) and our email boxes are brimming with junk email. Just because you have a platform for publishing your ideas doesn’t automatically mean it is a good idea.
Susan Miller is a WBOM member and owner of Creative Chameleon Writing Services, Bremen, Indiana. She offers professional writing services to businesses and is a personal historian, working with families interested in capturing everything from treasured recipes to histories.