From Effective Writing – combining creativity with productivity
Workplace writing is a genre that stands on its own. The underlying concept of effective workplace writing – whether it is in a commercial office, an educational institution or government – is to convey the message effectively and as clearly and as concisely as possible. Unlike academic writing which is focused on developing argument, business writing is focused on outcome.
When writing for business, we need an audience-centric approach and must create our message in a language appropriate to audience needs. This includes being tactful and mindful of any cultural or gender sensitivities. It also means framing your requirements or call to action in a positive and unambiguous tone.
Our audience may be a single client, a government department or indeed, all those who may have an interest in reading the document. For some, your work may be required reading; others may stumble across it during an Internet search. But foremost, you are writing to be read and that means for an audience; the needs and expectations of your primary audience must be at the forefront of your thinking; the concerns of your secondary audience(s) must also be at the back of your mind.
Do you understand your audience? Have you researched its requirements? Are there any internal or external aspects of their situation that may have an impact on the manner in which you present your argument? Good research on your audience and its expectations will inform your writing and allow you to address their needs.
Is your tone and language appropriate to their understanding of your document? Will it be sufficient to persuade your reader?
Your organization – no matter how large or small – represents a ‘brand’. It has an image to protect. Poor and sloppy writing or fuzzy analysis will detract from the impact your document will make. If it is to be read by clients – or is being produced in response to a client brief – then these considerations become doubly important. More likely than not, if your organization is of any size, it will have its own issues of ‘style’ to consider.
If your document has technical or budgetary implications you may need to engage secondary authors (or at least reviewers) to ensure your arguments and analysis do not contain any pitfalls of which you may not be aware. In these days where sensitivities are high, you cannot afford to let down your guard.
Organizational considerations do not stop with your own group. There is also the organizational need of your target audience to consider. You should also to assess the position of your primary readers within their own management structure. Are you selling your idea to the CEO or does your recipient need to sell your idea to his or her boss before a decision can be taken. What can you do to ease the path to making the decision you want?
The other ‘stakeholders’ in the document are those who may – directly or indirectly – be affected by its outcome. Your secondary audience is a subset of this group. ‘Impact Analysis’ is becoming commonplace nowadays. There are two main angles to consider here: (i) the effect of your recommendations or ‘call to action’ on groups outside of your primary focus and will that impact be positive or negative (or at least be perceived as such)? And (ii) how such indirect stakeholders are treated within your document.
‘Sensitivity Analysis’ like impact analysis is becoming an important aspect of stakeholder engagement and any documents produced that are likely to become public at some point, need to take account of this.
Impact analysis deals with cause; sensitivity analysis deals with effect.
Who is the gatekeeper? This is the person within your organization who will sign off on your work and certify that it has been completed to an acceptable standard. Usually, this will be your manager, although it might also be a review committee. No matter who they area, understanding their expectations should be a priority at the commencement of the project and should be kept under surveillance throughout the entire development stage.