Do you hate writing? Take heart — most business owners do. It's one of those little wrinkles that they never planned for when starting out. Sadly, quality communication is just as important to your enterprise as the quality of the goods or services you provide. And worse, as your business grows, there are more and more things that have to be written — by YOU.
There's the business letter. It can be to a bank, a supplier, a customer, a lawyer, an accountant, the IRS or a dozen other people or institutions. There's the in-house stuff: a memo to your staff; a "Notice" to be posted on the bulletin board; an annual review or a reprimand to go in an employee's personnel file; the all-important Mission Statement and Employee Handbook; and don't forget the handout for the presentation at a meeting to outline a new procedure or policy.
Communications to your customers, even more important: an annual letter, maybe around the holidays, thanking them for their business; a solicitation letter to a new market segment you want to attract; ad copy for a print ad or brochure; maybe even a speech for your local trade association or an article for their publication.
I offer some suggestions that have at least two advantages. First, they're not original. They have stood the test of time, and though one style manual might not have all of them, a stack of best practice manuals almost certainly will. Second, they're multipurpose. To a very large extent writing is writing. A scientific manual can be clear and to the point, or it can be a mess. Big words and subject matter have little to do with the basics. Stick to these fundamentals and you won't go wrong.
So, presented in no particular order, here are some tips I hope you find useful:
1. State the topic of your piece in one simple declarative sentence.
This is the hardest — and most important part — of writing anything. What am I trying to say? What is it that I want to communicate? Nailing this down to one simple sentence that says in a nutshell what the whole piece is about is difficult. We sit down and a million ideas in our head clamor for attention. This rule forces us to find the idea that is really the bedrock, essential one.
The payoff is double –— the rest of the piece will flow and you'll end up with a coherent, powerful and persuasive document. Once you have this sentence written down, put it in front of you while you write. It is your focus. Everything you write should somehow relate to that sentence.
2. Use the paragraph properly.
This is the basic building block of your piece, and it should express only one thought or idea. Usually, this thought is laid out in the first sentence of the paragraph (like in this one), but it doesn't have to be. All the other sentences in the paragraph must support the"topic"of the paragraph.
Your FIRST paragraph usually lays out the topic arrived at in step one. Then all the other paragraphs support that topic like a block pyramid.