Professional writing is about saving your reader time by getting to the point. In brief, know your message, make it clear from the outset, and then add your supporting argument.
The modern world bombards us with more communication than we have time for. Yet, we all have the need to communicate.
Thus this article provides a quick guide to writing like a professional.
First note: this is not about being formal, it’s about being professional.
Start with a concise subject line. [For emails]
This is also the title of your communication. This tells the reader what to expect from engaging with your communication.
Greet your recipient with a formal or informal greeting. [For emails]
This can be an informal “Hi John” or a formal “Dear Mr. Doe”. If you don’t know the name of the person then stick with: “To whom it may concern”.
Thank your recipient. [For emails]
If you are replying to an email be sure to thank the recipient. A brief “Thank you for…” will put the recipient at ease and elicit polite and constructive conversation.
Answer the question “so what” immediately.
If it’s an email then state the purpose of your communication following your greeting. For any other communication, make the reason for your contact clear at the beginning. This saves your recipients’ time. They will value your communication higher for that. They are also more likely to repeat their engagements with you.
Close with the desired response.
Giving your recipient clear call to action will get you a prompt response, thus saving you time in return.
Reference the sources of your facts.
Add a link to the original source of a cited fact, your reader will trust you more for that.
Review, review, review.
Write everything you want to write. Walk away from it for 5 minutes. Come back, reread and organise everything into clear paragraphs. Add transitions where needed and place your information under the correct headers. Ensure it has a clear beginning, middle and end.
Walk away again for 5 minutes, come back and correct any errors.
You can also use the Hemingway App. This app will force you to re-read while making your writing bold and clear.
Be bold and clear.
Especially with your headings. Make them specific to what you will address in the paragraph that follows.
For example, if you use an abbreviation in one sentence, don’t confuse the reader by using the full word in a following sentence. Write the full word first, provide the abbreviation in parenthesis, and then use the abbreviation throughout your communication.
You can use the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance.
Make it relevant.
Don’t throw in all the information you can think of. Stick to the relevant facts and save your reader time by summarising key information.
Don’t make your sentences too long.
A quick test is to read your sentence out loud. If you run out of breath, it is too long. An average sentence should be 15 to 28 words. Cut out unnecessary phrases like “I think”. You’re the writer, these are obviously your thoughts.
Give examples when explaining complex information.
Be careful not to make the examples too long.
Make your writing visually appealing.
Use headings, paragraphs and include graphics with captions. Make your writing visually appealing and your readers will thank you by engaging and acting accordingly.
Yet, don’t abuse transitions. Transitions will give your communication and appealing flow. Also avoid long transitions like “in addition to”.
Please don’t use text speak.
For example, “thanks” is more respectful than “tx” in professional communication. Even then “thank you” will work better.
Include appropriate contact information in your signature.
Email and phone number will do.
Thank you for reading.