Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

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Barbara Gabogrecan
President

Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Frances Cahill » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:57 pm

Kathie
Your approach to transmitting the importance of quality written communication and the consequences of 'getting it wrong' is music to my ears.

It is only recently that I forced myself to use abbreviated word forms with once again patchy success! (See my post to Barb.)

I decided to use 'cool' text to my daughter and used 'y' as an abbreviation for 'why'. She took it to mean 'Yes' and I became a taxidriver for several young people waiting at the curb with her when I pulled up! No more cool texting for me. I am being educated though in the mysterious forms of textspeak.

Two spaces between sentences is on autopilot for my fingers!

Thank you

Cheers F
Frances Cahill
BA (Hons) 1st Cert IV TAA Cert IV Small Business Management
Business communication specialist, writer, trainer, author of LOL is not lots of love
http://www.askauntem.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aunt-Em/482360368464994
Frances Cahill
 
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Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Kathie Thomas » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:08 pm

Frances Cahill wrote:Kathie
Your approach to transmitting the importance of quality written communication and the consequences of 'getting it wrong' is music to my ears.

It is only recently that I forced myself to use abbreviated word forms with once again patchy success! (See my post to Barb.)

I decided to use 'cool' text to my daughter and used 'y' as an abbreviation for 'why'. She took it to mean 'Yes' and I became a taxidriver for several young people waiting at the curb with her when I pulled up! No more cool texting for me. I am being educated though in the mysterious forms of textspeak.

Two spaces between sentences is on autopilot for my fingers!

Thank you

Cheers F


Where's the 'like' button? :D :D :D

That is funny and I'm so glad that our daughters are fully grown and we don't have to chauffeur them anymore. Yes, it's a whole new education, isn't it?

I should add, that if any prospective new VA emails me and their email is badly composed (no caps, all caps, no fullstops or commas, etc) I immediately dismiss them as being a suitable candidate for the team. They might be good at what they do, but as I tell them all, their written communication is often the first thing prospective clients see. It's akin to the receptionist in a corporation and first appearances do count!
Kathie M. Thomas, AFAIOP, MVA, ASO, Author, Speaker, VA Coach
"A Clayton's Secretary"®, Award-winning Virtual Assistant Services and Network, Est. 1994
Web: http://www.vadirectory.net
VA blog : http://www.vadirectory.net/acsblog/
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Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Debra Jarvis » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:39 pm

Hi Francis and other readers,

My partner and I run a marketing, graphic and web design business. www.mediaglue.com.au
Good grammar, spelling and other writing skills are essential traits in our staff. Our customers want to look good (as well as generate more clients) and they rely on our skills in editing and proofreading to ensure that they look good to their customers. Even staff (myself included) who are not directly involved in the delivery of production processes need to appear proficient in both written and spoken English skills.

And I confess, I hesitate to post this as I feel I'm setting myself up to be critiqued on my written presentation.

I grew up in the era of get the ideas down on paper on don't worry about the technical details. My spelling is shocking and I do not understand grammar. If someone had forced me to focus on these skills as opposed to just getting my thoughts on paper I don't believe I would enjoy creative writing as much as I do. I'm a published author (non-fiction) currently writing my second book. The feedback I get is phenomenal. My readers love my book because of the information it contains not necessarily the spelling and grammar. (It has been edited, proofread and formatted by people whose expertise is in those areas, so it doesn't lack for good English.) My father can't stand for me to write to him due to my 'poor' English skills. I gave up writing anything that he would read before I reached my teens. Birthday cards read: To Dad, Love Debra xx

In closing, Yes I think business owners value good writing skills and I would personally deal with someone with good business writing skills over anyone without! Is there a middle road we can tread to foster creativity and keep professionalism in business?

Kind regards, Debra :-)
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Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Geoff Haw » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:57 pm

Hullo Frances, and thanks for your posts. Yes, they’ll make us think!

I see your topic is Writing skills for business, so I wonder what the relevance of ‘textspeak’ is in that context.

In writing to anyone on business matters, I try to only ever use ‘correct’ English, believing that anything less shows a lack of professionalism on my part. It’s also a reflection on how I might go about doing work for clients i.e. slapdash writing might suggest to some that my work could also be slapdash.

I certainly agree that Email and texts form a significant role in much of our business communication. However, I have always considered it both courteously respectful and good practice to write in good standard English, even if the recipient does not. If others write to me in informal or incorrect English, it does not mean that I should lower the quality of my responses just to get down to their level – and I don’t intend to imply any patronising there. Sometimes clients will show our correspondence to others, and poor standards can certainly divert people away from potential providers. Besides, I’ve not yet found any Gen Y people who can’t read decent English – but I know plenty of people who can’t readily read ‘textspeak’, or perhaps guess some parts!

Certainly, I concede that SMS is useful in many circumstances, but I don’t use them by preference, mainly to respond to an SMS I receive. Usg abbrev’s is ok but only if they r undstd e.g. is LOL Laughed Out Loud or Lots Of Love?

Clearly, instructions on meeting times, etc. need to be clear and unambiguous, so yes, I always write details in full: Monday 30th October at 7.30 pm. Naming the day of the week is, in my view, very helpful, because we always need to know which day is, so if I provide that information, it makes it easier.

No doubt, our language is constantly and gradually evolving. Gradually… not in a few days when a few pathetic politicians decide that misogynist specifically means sexist!

Charly, I can see merit in matching writing styles to suit the recipient, but not the actual writing standard. For example, I’m not sure that I would be teaching my trainee's to use an apostrophe when all I mean is plural, not possession – hence they would be simply trainees. However, I’m very confident that your work is of high standard – perhaps this was me just being a ‘teacher with a red pen’!

Frances, for the sake of your survey, I unequivocally value quality writing skills and believe that it is very important for my business – which includes securing jobs for people, writing and editing, marriages and funerals and public speaking, all of which depend on accuracy of written language. This has always been my view; it’s nothing new since I turned 35 (all those years ago!).

Dean, I understand any frustrations that you have in building up your blog readership, from experience! But feel encouraged in the first instance that you are putting thoughts out there. Not all readers respond, but are probably gaining from reading your words. For what it’s worth, I’ll sign up to get them regularly!

Bravo, Kathie, for sticking to standards! As an 18-year-old, I learned Pitman’s Typing method, and have touch-typed continuously all my adult life. But when I wrote my first book on computer at Departmental level, I also had to ‘unlearn’ two spaces after a full stop! It took a while!

I can certainly see why Barbara was keen to have Frances lead our forums this week. Writing is such a universal subject, and anything that makes people think about what they do and why they do it has to be a positive. Keep up the debate, Frances!

Best appreciative wishes, Geoff
__________________________________________________
Dr Geoff Haw. Managing Director, Sagacity Services
PO BOX 4007 NARRE WARREN SOUTH VIC 3805
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Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Frances Cahill » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:04 am

Debra
I don't think creativity is stifled by giving it a shiny vehicle to travel in! Professionalism doesn't need to be equated with boring and rigid. It is also common for people to hesitate when putting their wirting skills on show. I am a crusader in my training sessions to develop the confidence of my clients in their writing skills. In so many cases, the memory of grammar and English at school was negative for them.
Geoff
Thank you for your interest. The presence of textspeak in modern business writing is common - whether it is welcome or not. I am asking business owners to consider where it fits in their own daily communication routines. I used the term 'fluency' to generate interest and comment. I could hazard a comment that being fluent also means knowing when the forms are not to be used?
Frances Cahill
BA (Hons) 1st Cert IV TAA Cert IV Small Business Management
Business communication specialist, writer, trainer, author of LOL is not lots of love
http://www.askauntem.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aunt-Em/482360368464994
Frances Cahill
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:49 am

How to improve your business writing skills.

Postby Frances Cahill » Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:29 am

The results aren’t all in from my HBBA dodgy survey yet, but so far the trend is that readers consider writing skills as an essential element of the business skill set.

If you are in the percentage for whom writing skills are important – come with me as I talk about a few tips to help.

Dr Geoff Daw gave some powerful tips in his posts last week. I particularly liked the following:
Users are more likely to understand your writing if you take the time to organize your thoughts and write them in the clearest, simplest form possible.

No argument from me.

Here is a broad overview of the checkpoints I see as important when you are producing correspondence for your business – emails are a specialised subset of correspondence that I will deal with separately in a later post.


3 checkpoints for the ‘business’ writer

1. Important questions to ask before you start to write.
Who is the reader? (customer, bank, competitor)
What is the purpose of the document? (arrears demand, extension, quote)
What do you want to tell them? (pay up, resolve the dispute, invite their business)
How do you want to say it? (short and sharp, friendly, persuasive)

2. Questions to ask while you’re writing.
Are you keeping to the structure you have decided upon? (the purpose should still be very clear from beginning to end)
Is the point you are making clear? (solutions/consequences for the issues you are raising)
Is there a logical start and end point to this discussion? (list the issues or points logically)

3. Questions to ask after you have completed the task.
Has the document achieved what you set out to do? (will the customer be reassured your quote is for them)
Have you checked the spelling, grammar, punctuation and paragraph structures? (perhaps not so necessary in short documents but still important)
Does it flow logically? (proof reading works best when you read it out loud)


I know some of you will be thinking: has she lost her mind? All this palaver for just writing a letter or quote!

Stay with me here dear reader, all of these steps need only take a total of 5 seconds of time before you fingers hit the keyboard. The benefits should become evident after you try this checkpoint approach. Of course not all the examples will be relevant to everyone, but if you take a few moments to structure what you want to say and what you want to achieve with the communication it can save time, effort and money.

It is much more efficient to spend a few moments getting it 'right' first time.

Looking forward to hearing from you all on this one!
Frances Cahill
BA (Hons) 1st Cert IV TAA Cert IV Small Business Management
Business communication specialist, writer, trainer, author of LOL is not lots of love
http://www.askauntem.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aunt-Em/482360368464994
Frances Cahill
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:49 am

Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Linda Black » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:23 am

Hi Frances,
I'm finding this discussion quite fascinating and having thought (a bit) about it I realise that I always use UK English spelling and date format and I'm pretty fussy about spelling and clarity. Try as I might, I cannot bring myself to use text abbreviations on a regular basis. Somehow I feel that I've lowered my intelligence!!

So I have to admit that I connect fluency, clarity and spelling with intelligence - probably an unreasonable relationship nowadays.
I happily make allowances for people with English as a second language and if I'm aware of situations such as Barb's I'm fine about that as well.

I would have said I wasn't judgmental about people but this has shown me otherwise! Not a pleasant realisation I have to admit. Whenever I discover errors in my own spelling I feel somewhat ashamed so my judgments go both ways.
Thanks for this interesting topic
Linda Black
Linda is a Clinical Hypnotherapist who also uses the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT, also known as tapping) to produce personal change.
http://www.insightingpeace.com
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Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Frances Cahill » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:49 pm

Linda, I am always delighted by the interest and debate topics like this generate. Thank you for sharing your insights. There is a great little book with the title: 'I judge you when you open your mouth'. I suppose the same principle can be applied when 'you pick up a pen' - literally and well as the electronic variety. I have found it important in recent years to ensure that while I maintain a professional standard that I allow more than one factor to be taken into account when I encounter a piece of writing. I am honest, always, but the wonderful world of words that are like oxygen to me has been associated with punishment and boredom for so many others. Thank you again.
Frances Cahill
BA (Hons) 1st Cert IV TAA Cert IV Small Business Management
Business communication specialist, writer, trainer, author of LOL is not lots of love
http://www.askauntem.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aunt-Em/482360368464994
Frances Cahill
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:49 am

NO I don't DO websites!

Postby Frances Cahill » Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:42 am

Or a guide to writers - what they do. Sorry Barb I know you thought I was going to talk about what should be seen on websites but......

In the novice days of my business, I was anxious to maintain a steady stream of income (of course). I accepted all and any jobs I was given and I was so grateful. But my major mistake was trying to be all things to all clients. I did some work that was just average to be honest. In my fear, I wasn’t committed to focus exclusively on what I did well and provide excellent service.

Hence the title of this post – I now confidently and politely say: ‘NO I don’t do websites – thank you for asking’.
There are many raised eyebrows or pregnant pauses; all writers write - don't they?

I am now able to refer clients on to a more appropriate ‘writer’ for the job.
So here is a brief guide to what the term ‘writer’ can encompass and my relative expertise in that sub set of writing.

This list is not exhaustive but gives an indication of what writers can actually be specialised in.

Geoff - please feel free to add as you see fit.

Website copy – nope I don’t DO websites!
Brochure copy – hmm if I have to
Editing – my favourite
Proofreading – I love that too but I am not meticulous enough for very large jobs
Website concept – NOPE I go into the remedial class for that!

As I mentioned above, all writers can write but not every writer you meet will be a match for your business. Below is a list of powerhouse writer colleagues and friends who cover the spectrum of just about anything you might need in writing.

Geoff Daw - Writer / Editor: http://www.writeyourlifestory.com.au

Ingrid Cliff - brilliant corporate copy writing http://www.heartharmony.com.au

Gina Lofaro – snappy copy writer - the Wordmistress – http://www.wordmistress.com.au

Wendy Smith - meticulous editor of theses and powerful items - JewelSee editing - http://www.jewelsee.com.au

Kylee Bristow – high quality copy writer and developer of training material - http://www.lexipublishing.com

Bronwyn Parry – a friend of over 25 years – an award winning rural romance novelist - http://bronwynparry.com

So what is the point I am making other than a blatant plug for talented 'writers'?

If you are thinking of using the services of a writer, there are a number of tips worth considering.

Ask for examples of their work - if web content is their speciality - take a look at websites they have developed.
Examples of editing can be a bit tricky but I like to see some before and after versions - if possible.
A good copy writer can really add WOW to the content of your advertising material and brochures - the largest and well-known ones may not always the best.
Think first of what you want the writer to produce for you.
A good copy writer will ask you questions about your target market, what the business means to you, what your core values are. This ensures that there is a match between the copy and your business.
Finally ask questions, seek advice from other business owners and especially forums like HBBA.

I am looking forward to hearing the triumphs and tragedies!

Yes, I am very familiar with both.

Cheers Frances
Frances Cahill
BA (Hons) 1st Cert IV TAA Cert IV Small Business Management
Business communication specialist, writer, trainer, author of LOL is not lots of love
http://www.askauntem.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aunt-Em/482360368464994
Frances Cahill
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 11:49 am

Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Geoff Haw » Thu Nov 01, 2012 9:32 am

Good morning, Frances.

I really like your refreshingly open style and references to others. It strikes me that anyone who is so frank and realistic in providing advice to others has to be well worth reading and pondering on. Yes, over the years I've had a range of services that I offer to clients, and I enjoy them all - and if someone wants our work, we do tend to take the money for anything, rather than maybe focusing on specialities. It's perhaps a classic case of specialists versus generalists; jack of all trades and master of none?

Your point about writing for websites, as has been confirmed by conversations with Barbara and Peter, is so true. I know that I have to re-write my sites into more 'energetically generating' words, including hot links, etc, as is so very well practised by Wikipedia.

You've given some excellent tips for clients to ask writers... and I'll be very interested to visit those sites of other writers you've listed. We can ALWAYS learn from others, and need to ensure that our own personal pride doesn't stand in our way of what we can see modelled from others.

For me, my current favourite writing is preparing and publishing (formally or informally), in book format, life stories, family adventures over a lifetime, and generally what I'll call 'social history', which is a fascinating field. I've also met some amazing people - some of whom are in their 90s, with so much to tell. Today's young people live in such a different world from our seniors, but love to hear of some of the 'quaint' practices that were the norm just 60+ years ago. As my own kids used to ask me when they were in Primary School, 'What was life like in the olden days, Dad?'

One last point, everyone: I am not Geoff Daw - he does not exist., to my knowledge. My name, such as it is, is Geoff Haw. I say this because a good number of people who know me may not have made the connection...

Warm thanks, Frances, for keeping our grey matter ticking over!

Geoff
____________________________________________________
Dr Geoff Haw
FACE CMC D.Arts M.Ed. Grad Dip Ed Admin TPTC Cert. IV Training & Assessment
Managing Director, Sagacity Services
PO BOX 4007 NARRE WARREN SOUTH VIC 3805
T: +61 3 5998 4932 M: 0418 580 081
E: geoff@sagacityservices.com.au
• Civil Celebrant / MC: www.celebratetoremember.com
• Job Applications
• Writer / Editor: www.writeyourlifestory.com.au
• Trainer: Public Speaking / Leadership
W: www.sagacityservices.com.au
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