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Many web entrepreneurs are unfamiliar with business writing. In truth, concise writing will build your business because you will better connect with customers and prospects. In this five-part series, the author will teach you how to make your web communications, and all business correspondence, clearer, understandable, and more direct.
Business Writing Skills I: What Do You Want to Say? By Linda Elizabeth Alexander
Whether you hate writing or love it, it always helps to plan what you want to say. One method that has always helped me is the rhetorical square -- a mnemonic device designed to help you figure out what to say before you say it. I've seen other words used, but the one I remember best is "P.A.W.S."
Paws stands for "purpose, audience, writer, subject." P.A.W.S. is most helpful when establishing the goals of the piece you are writing and can be as formal and lengthy or informal and brief as you like. Ask yourself these questions the next time you sit down to write.
Purpose. What do you want to accomplish through your writing? Every composition has its purpose, even it it's just to finish an assignment. For example, you may write a letter to convey information, to sell something, or to say hi to an old friend. You might write a brochure to inform customers of a new product, explain your company's mission to them, or to serve as an advertisement for your services.
Audience. The most important thing you need to know in order to communicate clearly through writing is whom you are writing for. Who will read your writing? Your mother? Your client base? Your boss? Every audience has a different level of experience and education. For example, when writing a report to your boss, you may share company jargon that the average Joe doesn't understand - because the average Joe won't be reading the report. Similarly, you will communicate differently to your employees and your customers.
Writer. Third, take into consideration the persona you will assume when writing the piece. Think about the tone you want to use and the image you want to present to your audience. From what perspective are you writing? What impression do you want to give your readers? For example, if you get a new job, you will want to announce it to your friends, your clients - and your current supervisor. You wouldn't think of using the same tone in all three letters, would you? You might sound enthusiastic and informal with your friends and enthusiastic and polite with your clients. Depending on your relationship with your current supervisor, you will probably be official and reticent with her or him.
Subject (or message). How should you say it? The length or purpose of the piece lends itself to your subject. It's very hard to fit a full-length board report on a post card; at the same time, you wouldn't want to write a memo about your travels in the jungle during your summer vacation. Note that this the same as your purpose: your subject or message is the content itself; ask yourself what the piece is about and decide what is the most appropriate format for it to take.
Good writers routinely analyze the four elements of PAWS. Using it to prepare your writing, whether it's a personal email, formal business report, or your best selling novel, will improve your writing and get your argument across clearly.
Linda Elizabeth Alexander is a business writer and marketing consultant based in Longmont, Colorado, USA. Improve your writing skills at work! Subscribe to her FREE ezine. Write to the Point at email@example.com or visit http://www.write2thepointcom.com/articles.html.