Confronting Difficult Issues with Writing

We don’t conduct business in a vacuum. Sometimes, we have to confront difficult, uncomfortable topics with writing. When these situations arise, our challenge is to write in a way that articulates our feelings and perspectives, while also improving the business culture that we work in—not tearing it down. 

Perhaps you need to tell a group of employees disappointing news or must explain a setback to a customer. At one time or another, we all must write about business-related difficulties.

Here are a few things to keep in mind so your writing is as successful as possible:

1. Take a deep breath. Wait until your head is clear to put your thoughts into writing.  If you don’t, you’ll risk hurting your reputation and making the situation even worse.

2. Share your perspective and ask for theirs. Detail what you specifically have seen or experienced; don’t assume that everyone has the same perspective. Write several sentences beginning with “I” so that the reader understands where you’re coming from. Then, ask for them to share their perspective (a personal email back to you, a phone call, etc.).

3. Articulate goals. Discuss the problems in terms of your collective objectives. It’s useful to describe the goals, even if you think all your readers know them already, so everyone is on the same page.

4. Recognize hard work. Give everyone credit where it’s due by recognizing others’  efforts to achieve the goals. We all respond better to a disappointment when our successes and achievements are recognized.

5. Never blame. Don’t ever blame another person in writing. Setbacks and failures usually have many causes, not including other peoples’ actions or decisions. Blaming people will only worsen the situation.

6. Recognize disappointment and next steps. Finally, describe your and others’ disappointment in the situation; recognize how it will hurt employees or your customers. Don’t shy away from this—readers want to know that you understand their pains. Once you’ve done this, encourage others to move past it by outlining the steps you’ll take to improve or rectify the situation.

For my next post, I’ll write a sample email addressing a difficult topic. Do you have any suggestions for the topic or situation? Please pass along any scenarios that come to mind!

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Excellent Writing = Credibility

Honest and persuasive communication builds the foundation for your business’ credibility. This is the best way to develop long-lasting relationships with your clients, customers and employees.

Credible writing is more than grammatically correct and coherent. It inspires and strengthens trust in your business’ message and goals; it builds loyalty.

Here are a few important strategy for building credibility with excellent writing:

  1. Explain issues clearly. Readers appreciate clarity and simple, logical writing makes you seem more knowledgeable. Avoid readers scratching their heads at all costs. This is especially important when writing emails, letters and presentations. 
  2. Use specific facts, not vague statements. Whenever possible, reference highly specific information and figures to support your claims. Readers quickly become skeptical if you only use generalizations. This is especially important when proposing a new idea, explaining a new strategy or defining results.
  3. Reference credible sources. Offer your readers several credible sources that support your message. The sources may be from your project research, or simply provide readers with additional reading. This is especially important when writing presentations and reports.
  4. Address concerns, weakness and mistakes. Be honest and forthright—this is the best way to establish and grow trust with your readers. Let them know that you’ve thought about their potential concerns and owned up for mistakes. You can then move on with their full support. This is especially important when writing memos, emails and presentations.

3 Ways Bad Grammar Hurts Your Career

Gramatical errors don’t just jar editors and sticklers for the rules. They chip away at your credibility, your ability to communicate effectively and can, ultimately, damage your career. Here are a few reasons to proofread extra carefully at work:

6943661159_b3ba39ae9a_z1. People who use bad grammar are less likely to be hired. A mistake on your resume, letter or even LinkedIn profile cause many employers to believe that you cannot represent yourself well in writing and pay little attention to detail. Employers are very unlikely to trust someone like this, even if the position requires no writing. Check out this HBR article for one employer’s perspective.

2. Your good ideas and hard work become clouded. When readers see that you don’t know the difference between “affected” and “effected,” they are less likely to buy into your new idea or respect the work you put into a project. Small grammatical mistakes weaken your message, no matter how powerful, curtailing your achievements and progress.

3. Poor grammar compromises your professionalism. Using bad grammar in an email or conversation can make your colleagues think that you aren’t serious about your work. It can also cause them to notice or, worse, seek out your other bad habits. Become more self-aware of the language you choose when speaking and writing—it can be friendly and informal, while also grammatically correct and professional.

Beginning an Email Message

Beginning an email is daunting. These opening words determine the entire message’s tone and influence whether or not your readers will continue reading on. You also want to balance friendliness with efficiency–being polite with getting to the point.

With all this riding on just a few words, how do you know how to start a message? Here are a few phrases specific to common situations to help you get started:

Formal Correspondences:

  • I am writing to inquire about/ confirm/ add information about…
  • Per your request, I have included information about…

Everyday Business Conversations: 

  • In regards to our project… 
  • I’d like to ask a few questions about…
  • I’d like to remind you/ confirm…
  • I have some updates about…
  • I’m happy to…
  • I’m excited to report…
  • Thanks to your work on…, we are ready to…

Everyday Business Requests: 

  • Could you…? 
  • I’d be grateful if you…
  • Would you be willing to…?

Hope these simple phrases make starting emails a bit easier!

Hiring a Writer Series: When should you hire?

The Hiring a Writer Series examines how business owners, managers and marketers can can hire the best freelance writer for their project and establish a successful and productive relationship.

moo.com business cards

moo.com business cards (Photo credit: bargainmoose)

There are so many reasons that businesses hire an outside writer to complete a few tasks. Perhaps they have too much on their plates and need to outsource some work or maybe they want to produce something totally new, like a blog or marketing brochure, and need some outside expertise. Sometimes, businesses simply want an outside perspective or someone who can get the task done quickly. In short, hiring a talented outside writer benefits businesses in many ways.

The challenge lies in finding the right writer–and at the right time. Here are a few simple tips to get the timing right:

  1. Learn about a few potential writers well before you have a specific project in mind. Seek out information on potential writers and editors to have on file. This way, when something comes up, you have people that you can interview quickly.
  2. When a project arises, contact writers as soon as possible. This means you’ll find the right one more quickly and get the ball rolling.
  3. Plan time for the writer to gather information. Most likely, the writer won’t be completely familiar with your business, the project or your overarching goals. Give him or her at least two days to speak to employees, read and research. This step is vital for a successful end product. If they continue working for you, they will need considerably less time to research.
  4. Don’t expect the writer to devote all their time to your project. Most freelance writers juggle multiple projects at once. They can usually write very quickly after gathering all the information. When interviewing candidates, ask them how long they expect the project to take. Some writers may be able to turn your project around more quickly than others.

Check back soon for more tips for hiring a writer for your business’ projects!