Business Writing Fundamentals
Illustration by Neil Webb

Making your writing correct


From:

Business Writing Fundamentals

with Judy Steiner-Williams
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Video: Making your writing correct

You've heard the cliche that you have one chance to make a good first impression. That cliche applies to your business messages. Often, a reader's first and maybe only impression of you is formed from the email or letter you sent. One of the first things the reader notices is correctness. Name spelling. Mechanics. Information. Format. Your writing needs to be correct in all areas. Let's start by analyzing the importance of getting off to a good start.

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Watch the Online Video Course Business Writing Fundamentals
1h 32m Appropriate for all Feb 04, 2014

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Discover the secrets to effective business writing and crafting messages that others want to read and act on. Judy Steiner-Williams, senior lecturer at Kelley School of Business, introduces you to the 10 Cs of strong business communication and provides you with before-and-after writing samples that give you the opportunity to apply each principle and sharpen your communication skills. Judy also points out common grammar and writing mistakes and shares special considerations for formats like emails and reports.

This course qualifies for 1.5 Category A professional development units (PDUs) through lynda.com, PMI Registered Education Provider #4101.


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Subject:
Business
Author:
Judy Steiner-Williams

Making your writing correct

You've heard the cliche that you have one chance to make a good first impression. That cliche applies to your business messages. Often, a reader's first and maybe only impression of you is formed from the email or letter you sent. One of the first things the reader notices is correctness. Name spelling. Mechanics. Information. Format. Your writing needs to be correct in all areas. Let's start by analyzing the importance of getting off to a good start.

First, check to make sure your recipient's name is spelled correctly. We like our names. You receive a message telling you how important your account is, but your name is spelled incorrectly. You notice the error immediately, and your first impression is that you weren't important enough for someone to verify the spelling of your name. Also, be careful of the courtesy title. Usually Mr. or Ms., and making gender assumptions. For example, are Lynn and Lindsey male or female? If you said female, use Ms. as the courtesy title.

You've just offended the Lynn and Lindsey I know. Both are male. Once you are certain the name and the courtesy title are correct, next check that your mechanics are correct. As wonderful as spell checkers and grammar checkers are, they won't flag all mechanical or proofreading errors. Reading a message before sending it is crucial. When your reader sees an error, he or she doesn't know if you don't know what is correct, if you don't care, if you were in a hurry, if you think it doesn't make any difference, or that no one else will notice.

The end result is the same. It's incorrect, and people do notice. Some specific examples you should always check are you for your. Be sure to put you name on the reservation list. Then for than. I would rather attend the conference in July then the one in October. Also check for omitted words or repeated words. The next meeting in room 417. The next meeting is in in room 417.

Homonyms. Words that sound alike but have different spelling, such as it's and its, and stationary and stationery should also be checked carefully. The building will have its annual cleaning next month. Its is correct because it shows possession. The stationary bicycle will be added to the exercise room. Stationary is correct. The bicycle stays in one place.

Also use correct punctuation. Comma and semi colon, for example. Tell the manager that you want a current handbook; the one you have is outdated. A semi colon is needed. Otherwise, you have a comma splice. After you've checked your mechanics, make sure the information you're giving is correct. Are you giving facts or statistics in your message? Then double check that you didn't strike the 1 key instead of the 2 key. If you gave a bid for a project on your company letterhead, and the intended bid was $2,400,000, but you accidentally typed $1,400,000, you just lost your company a million dollars.

You can't say it was just an accident. Well, you could say it, but you still just gave a binding 1.4 million dollar bid. Finally, make sure your format is correct. For example, does the letter look like a letter? Does it use a modern format, or the old fashioned format with indented paragraphs? Here's an example of a letter that is left justified. All lines begin at the left margin. The letter itself explains the parts and the purpose, but here's an overview.

Most companies have a preprinted letterhead which will include the company name, contact information, and maybe a slogan or logo. Next, the date will be given, followed by two to four blank lines. Then, the reader's name, title and address. A double space below the inside draft is the reader's courtesy title, Mr., Ms., or Dr., followed by the last name. A colon is used after the names in business letters. A comma is generally used for personal letters.

Another double space, and then use a subject line. Although a subject line in this letter style isn't required, it helps the reader immediately identify the purpose of the letter. The actual body of the letter is then given. If the letter is more than one page, each additional page needs a continuation heading that includes the reader's name, the page number, and the date. A double space below the last line of the letter's body is the complimentary close. Sincerely and cordially are the most frequently used.

Very truly yours is an old style that is rarely used today. Then leave three blank lines for the writer's signature. The only other ending parts might be the reference initials. Those are used if someone other than the person who wrote the letter actually types it. If you've mentioned in the letter that something is enclosed, then an enclosure notation is used, and finally, the names of others who might have received a copy of the letter are listed. So correct names, title, grammar, information, and correct letter format.

Correct in all those areas. Overall, those are easy areas to check. The result? That good first impression.

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