Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

This Forum invites a number of experts to be a guest for one week and control discussions on specific topics. The public can gain a great deal of free information from reading the posts, but only members may write posts, add to discussions and ask and answer questions. I hope that everyone enjoys the forums and topics that will be featured.
Barbara Gabogrecan
President

Apologies to Dr Geoff Haw!

Postby Frances Cahill » Thu Nov 01, 2012 1:35 pm

Hello Geoff
I publicly hang my fingers in shame!
Thanks so much for your warm response. I have been editing my dear old Mum's life story. At 88 with service in the army in WWII, she has had a very interesting life. I love social history as you so rightly put it! These wonderful stories deserve to be captured and I am so glad that your respectful hands are shaping them.
Once again - thank you for your continuing interest.
Regards
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 Kathie Thomas » Thu Nov 01, 2012 2:13 pm

I knew it was you Geoff :D
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/
VA Training: http://www.vatrainer.com
Kathie Thomas
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 2:20 pm
Location: Selby, Victoria

Business emails are really just very short and fast letters!

Postby Frances Cahill » Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:51 am

Hello again
This is a rewrite of the snappy piece I had just composed! I didn't save it in progressive stages - so when the page timed out I lost it all! A fine lesson for me and I share it willingly!

So back to today's topic.
We have mentioned this in the previous posts this week. Emails are becoming a more significant part of our business correspondence and, as you have all agreed, require the same level of attention as any other correspondence going out under your business name. Here is a list - my favourite way of summarising.

WRITING EFFECTIVE BUSINESS EMAILS
1 Write a meaningful subject line.
- request for decision on
- confirm a booking
- request an invoice

2 Keep your message clear, concise and focused.

3 Ask yourself these questions before you write.
- what’s the point I’m making?
- do I want action or just a reply?

4 Make your emails readable.
- use standard capitalisation, spelling and typefaces
- insert space between paragraphs

5 Distinguish between formal and informal situations.

6 Don’t assume privacy – email is not secure.

7 Use plain, conversational English.

8 If the topic is complex - imagine you are speaking to the reader on the phone.
- what would you say and how?
- don’t say too much
- stick to the facts

9 Proofread

A tip I was given many years ago when writing complex government briefings was to imagine 'dear Mum' at the beginning. My mother is a mentally active woman interested in world affairs and a perfect 'target' to write for. Choose your own suitable imaginary recipient and see whether it changes the way you explain points in your message. Obviously, not everyone writes complex correspondence and this is dangerously like the 'checkpoints' palaver I mentioned in a post earlier this week but it is a useful tool.

A particular use I put it to recently was after a series of confusing and frustrating email exchanges with an organisation, I sat back and said in my mind - dear Mum. I needed to unravel the confusion and set about explaining, examining and resolving to put the case to 'Mum'. It works every time. I traced the confusion back to an earlier exchange and then was able to correct the error and go forward.

Here is another list. These principles obviously apply for all writing and I spend a bit of time on each in the seminars I run: Grammar for Grownups and Paragraphs:Friend or Foe? The one which has the most impact though is the first one. It is not just clever positioning on my part. It is important to take a moment BEFORE your fingers kit the keyboard to decide what you are writing and why you are sending it. What do you want to achieve? I can guarantee that if you are not sure, then your reader won't be either!

PRINCIPLES OF GOOD WRITING

The purpose or goal of your piece identified
- what you are writing about (your topic)
- why you are writing (your purpose)
Clear
Concise
Grammatically correct
Accurate
Punctuation (proofreading)
Logical flow
Structured (editing)
No jargon or unnecessary technical terms
Reader’s needs identified
Plain language
Adequate research
Easy to read
Paragraphs with a single-issue
Definite starts and finishes


I look forward to hearing your comments.

Regards


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

Quality communication has many different essential elements

Postby Frances Cahill » Sat Nov 03, 2012 12:52 am

Hello again
Well, the dodgy HBBA survey results have now been finalised.
Respondents in the southern half of this great island continent universally value good business writing skills.
Opinions of respondents in the northern half have different shades but still support the need for quality communication.

Obviously this was a light-hearted approach to the topic with no claims to validity. It was a useful exercise nevertheless - wouldn’t you agree? Examining why something is important to you, can be an empowering experience.

I have been so encouraged by the responses of all of the readers. It is definitely a skill set that is valued. I am confident that my services and products can be a viable solution to filling this gap in business skill sets of the workforce.

A point was raised in my original dodgy survey that writing is just one aspect of communication. Agreed. There are the non-verbal cues which influence a significant majority of face-to-face communication. The amount of engagement you have with your audience - whether you set the delivery appropriate to the communication task. All important points but this is not my area of expertise. I would love to hear your opinions on this aspect of communication.

I was watching a replay of the Melbourne Comedy Festival recently. Two of the many comedians on the show delivered linguistics-related jokes that I simply loved. I share them with you now to point out what written words simply can’t tell you.

Ari Barker http://www.arjbarker.com told us, quite rightly, that there is no clear way of telling tone in digital communication. He suggests that there should be a font developed called ‘sarcastica’.

Tim Minchin http://http://www.timminchin.com sang a catchy parody commenting on the boundaries of slang: ‘Only a ginger can call a ginger, ginger’. I am not confident in punctuating that sentence at all, so I’ll leave it to the purists to work it out.

Words will forever be magic for me and I will only allow a small nod in the direction of the importance of other elements of communication. I am wholly immersed in the joy and music of written communication in all its forms: prose, poetry, ditties, jokes, cartoons, scholarly articles, sales pitches, sonnets and yes even Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

What are your thoughts? Be honest.
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 Barbara Gabogrecan » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:50 am

What an interesting discussion - from everyone! For those of you who know me and receive email from me, you will have noticed in my signature box that I have written 'no SMS accepted' - if I do receive one, I simply delete it without reading. Why? Because I find it very difficult to read as it is too small (I certainly cannot send one) and because I just don't understand most of the textspeak. Is it that much harder to leave a voice message? OK it may be more expensive, especially when everyone today tends to use mobiles, but if it is a better form of communication, then for goddness sakes use it. Those who make a phone call and do not bother to leave a message - now they certainly know how to waste money!

It took 3 of us to work out what it was Geoff had said as an example of 'textspeak' in his post - and it was only the youngest one who worked it out. So, what a waste of time. You might as well send me a message in Spanish or German.

For those who do send texts all the time, I can understand why they would want to shorten words - it is so difficult and time consuming to find all the lettere to construct a word...BUT for business, I cannot imagine anything worse. Like Linda - I would be biased towards anyone that emailed me in 'textspeak' - perhaps not thinking of them as unintellignet, but certainly in considering them rude and unprofessional.

And - I really don't believe it matters who I am communicating with - I do not think I should have to change the correct way of speaking (writing) just because they do it differently!

It reminds me of when Australian's did business with the Japanese some years ago and we were expected to do things according to their culture, rather than ours. WHAT! Like others, I did it - but it always annoyed me. And then to have our schools not allowed to have Christmas celebrations because we might offend non Christain students - is just plain ludicrous! Australia is a Christain country!! Do our leaders think that if Austrailans were in a foreign country that that country would not allow their religious festivals to take place?...I bet!

Well - I have got off writing haven't I....? But I do see the connection in making auch huge differences in our writing rules, especailly when it occurs over such a short period of time. Earlier it was mentioned about Shakespeare English compared to today's English - but consider how long it took to gradually make the changes.I won't live long enough for slow changes and won't accept the fast ones. So, I guess that makes me a dinosour.
Barbara Gabogrecan assists HBB's to market their business online
http://www.HomeBasedBusinessAustralia.org

Barbara is an artist specialising in silk painting; her video is on page one of You Tube http://youtu.be/1ZA9HObN_Go
http://www.SilkPaintingByGabogrecan.com/

Having survived a stroke and a brain tumour, Barbara wrote a book titled 'Thank God I Had a Stroke' to motivate and inspire others suffering from similar afflictions.
http://GabogrecanStrokeRecovery.com/
Barbara Gabogrecan
 
Posts: 341
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 12:57 pm

Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Frances Cahill » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:33 pm

Hello Barb
Glad to hear from you and thank you for your comments.
I want to change the impression that I think textspeak in its full abbreviated forms belongs anywhere in professional contexts.
I raised the issue as a thought provoker and it certainly worked! The intended audience of your communication should always be kept in mind when you write - matching tone, language and vocabulary doesn't necessarily mean lowering standards.
I have addressed textspeak in other forums and I maintain that textspeak is not deficient if it remains in the domain it was created in -social media/mobile phones.
It is when it leaks/bleeds/escapes into other domains - professional, business, academic etc - that it needs to be removed/tidied up/dynamited.


Thank you for the kick in the pen!

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 Frances Cahill » Sun Nov 04, 2012 1:34 am

ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY
(Vanessa Amorossi’s http://www.vanessaamorosi.com song should now be echoing in your heads)

What a wonderful week this has been!

Thank you so much everyone for your lively participation.

I offer these few comments as a final ‘thoughts generator’.

1. bsolutely everybody communicates in some way every day.

2. Language is alive and evolving whether we like it or not.

3. Our lives are no longer isolated and the ease with which we now communicate globally is staggering. This is particularly true for those of us who remember 5 digit phone numbers, Gestetner copying machines and carriage return typewriters.

4. Those of us who use words as our businesses may face a perceived battle for relevance but I am confident that:
- Spellcheck can NEVER replace a good editor/proof-reader
- Sarcastica font will never replace the magic of pithy statements crafted for shock and effect
- ‘To be or not to be’ could be replaced exactly by '2B or not 2B' and still give me the same thrill even though old William would not understand a word being written.

5. It is no secret, I guess, of my love affair with words but geeky is good in my house and always will be.

Thank you once again everyone for your interest and input. I thank Barb particularly for the opportunity to run rampant with my views. I am honoured to know so many people have taken the time to have a look and even more so to engage in the discussions.

Words are the platform for most of your dealings in business, choose them well, polish them if necessary, and build your success!

With warmest regards


Frances Cahill
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 Kathie Thomas » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:02 am

Thank you Frances for a thought provoking discussion. And I do remember those things you mentioned, and triple carbons, telex machines and my first real-time chat on a telex. Where have those years gone?
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/
VA Training: http://www.vatrainer.com
Kathie Thomas
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 2:20 pm
Location: Selby, Victoria

Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Barbara Gabogrecan » Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:20 am

What a great response to your discussion this week Frances. I think you have the highest number of members writing than any other expert this year....and you already have over 130 readers in one week. Well Done! HBBA members can certainly benefit by taking in the many tips and hints that our guest experts offer.....it is great to see that you have joined HBBA too and I hope that you find the time to make regular comments in this Forum.

By the way - I LOVE your new logo on your new website http://askauntem.com.au/ and it makes a great banner on the HBBA website too.
Barb

PS. Your example of '2B or not 2B' is the first example I have seen that I understand - BUT when I went to write it hear, I had to actually stop and figure out that I had to type '2' not 'To'......
Barbara Gabogrecan assists HBB's to market their business online
http://www.HomeBasedBusinessAustralia.org

Barbara is an artist specialising in silk painting; her video is on page one of You Tube http://youtu.be/1ZA9HObN_Go
http://www.SilkPaintingByGabogrecan.com/

Having survived a stroke and a brain tumour, Barbara wrote a book titled 'Thank God I Had a Stroke' to motivate and inspire others suffering from similar afflictions.
http://GabogrecanStrokeRecovery.com/
Barbara Gabogrecan
 
Posts: 341
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 12:57 pm

Re: Welcome Frances Cahill on writing skills for business

Postby Peter O'Connor » Tue Nov 06, 2012 2:12 pm

Hi Frances

I just loved your posts!

Being 35+ (a lot) and living in the south, I too value good writing skills dearly. Not only do you get your point across, but you do it in such a way as to make reading it a pleasure.

Congratulations

Peter
Peter O'Connor, is a retired accountant and is involved with teaching home based businesses how to build and manage their own websites.
http://www.HomeBasedBusinessAustralia.org
Peter O'Connor
 
Posts: 79
Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 10:12 am

PreviousNext

Return to Guest Experts

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron