Written by Jo Cox, Editor at Yellow Door Collective
With the advent of WhatsApp, and email continuing to be an integral form of interaction, more and more business communication is now done in writing. The nuances of what is appropriate across these different platforms can be tricky to grasp, especially as clients use them in different ways. There are, however, some simple tips to help make your business communication more professional in all forms.
Everyone makes typos and spelling errors tend to happen when preparing documents or writing emails, but not everyone is in the habit of proofreading. Business communications with mistakes indicate a lazy approach and should be avoided at all costs. Where the ‘cost’ is running a spell check, whether by eye or using a programme, which takes a matter of minutes, there really is no excuse.
Always check for attachments, to avoid the embarrassment of having to send a follow up ‘Now attached!’ email. This error dents the sheen of professionalism you want to project. Even if it means sticking a post-it note on your laptop screen to check each email for attachments before sending, it’s worth it!
We are all busy. Respect the limited time your colleague, client, or service provider has to read your communications. Succinct writing is good writing – a useful approach is to challenge yourself to articulate exactly what you need to express, ask, or demonstrate with the minimal number of words. Keep the tone appropriate, but remove all unnecessary phrases. A helpful way to start is by trying to cut at least three words from each sentence after you have written a first draft.
Edit for clarity
Business and life are conducted at such a fast pace now, it can be tempting to ping off emails or replies almost automatically. However, every message you send contributes to the impression your client, employer, or service provider builds of you, your abilities, and the status of the relationship. Avoid falling into the trap of completing multiple tasks in minimal time; read your communications back to yourself to ensure that they are clear. Your correspondent should be able to gather what you are aiming to communicate on first read.
Flag and file
As businesses move to paperless systems, our computers become like filing cabinets. There was a reason businesses invested in systems for organisation and archiving – because information remains relevant, and needs to be accessible. Create a system which works for you, whether that is folders within your inbox, flagging/pinning certain chains, marking messages unopened until responded to, it should allow you to quickly access specific bits of information. Old messages should be retained for reference, and the best systems include being strict about keeping all communications relating to a topic in one form, for example, one email chain about each project.
Consider appropriate distance
Particularly when you have worked with a client for some time, a rapport hopefully develops. This is a huge positive, obviously, but you shouldn’t then use business communication to discuss your personal problems. Keep the two separate. Remember that business communications are a reflection of your conduct in the industry, not your social circle or personal relationships. Would you be happy for a prospective client, your boss, or business partner to read what you are sending from a work email address?
In short, be clear, concise, and check for typos or attachments. Implement a system to keep communications accessible and accountable. Finally, read through everything and ensure that, in terms of tone, you would be happy for someone else in the industry to read your interactions.
‘This article was originally published as a blog on www.yellowdoorcollective.com