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Improve your business writing one email at a time


Even though we're already one month into 2018 (!), it's not too late to talk about New Year's resolutions.

Many of my clients (especially my ESL clients) resolve to improve their writing, but wonder how to do so. Take courses? Read more? Download handy cheat sheets?

All of those things can be helpful, but I usually start by sharing this helpful HBR article with any clients who ask about better writing. I especially like the quotation in it from Bryan Garner: "Effective writing is not a gift that you’re born with . . . It’s a skill that you cultivate.”

So true. But who has time to "cultivate" their writing, especially in the corporate world? Even for designated copy writers, actual writing is just one of the many things they're expected to tackle in a day.

That's why I recommend turning up to 40% of your day into writing practice without sacrificing any additional time. How? Use your daily email slog to practice your business writing.

Sure, some emails are best answered in just a few words, but most of the emails I send give me an excellent opportunity to practice my writing. Whether I'm negotiating a fee, planning a project, checking in with a client, or thanking someone, I want my very best communication skills on display.

Consider a conversation with a boss. If he leaned in the door and mumbled a few disjointed words while clearly thinking about something else, would you consider that a satisfying interaction? If not, why are you okay with sending off a vague single sentence (fraught with typos) to a colleague or client?

In addition, good emails are everything that good business writing should be: succinct, clear, direct, pleasant/courteous, and well thought out.

We all begrudge the time we spend on email at work—why not turn it into an opportunity to hone a crucial skill?

-CS Phares


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