Process and Purpose :
Most correspondence is almost all just process. People make mistakes and waste time by saying the obvious, not being persuasive, and losing the opportunity to further their purpose. Our objective is to train you to write your letters, faxes and emails to advance your purpose and avoid these common errors.
We will refer to the differences between process and purpose throughout this CD.
A favorite example of purposeless process is when a bank writes, - Did you know you are late on your loan? - Of course the recipient knows this. If the letter were written formore than just process, the writer would start with - Can we help you in paying your loan?
This creates a positive incentive for the debtor through providing some hope of a cooperative attitude by the lender as opposed to stating the obvious and driving the debtor further away from the lender.
These are 17 basic types of communication. Each category will be discussed and reviewed. You will be given advice about how to best deal with events occurring within these types of communication. We will provide key sample letters, faxes and emails for you to adapt to your exact purposes. We will recommend you save a few good communications that have worked for you so you can use them as your model in future correspondence in these categories.
1. Agreements & Disputes
2. Apologies & Condolences
4. Congratulations & Thank Yous
6. Customer Complaints
10. Invitations & Announcements
11. Mottos & Slogans
12. Protected Groups
16. Vendors & Suppliers
Effective business writing can also be adapted to your personal life. Most people pay too little attention to their personal correspondence, which, usually has a more significant long term impact on their life and merits a corresponding amount of yourattention to make your life better.
Who writes well? Who do you admire? The best American writers have been those who emphasize clarity and brevity over profundity and weight. F. Scott Fitzgerald is my particular favorite. Close seconds are Willa Cather and Ernest Hemingway. To write effectively, avoid length, profundity, weight and back and forths in sentences, those pesky sentence bridges, commas, colons, and semicolons.
What do the best writers do? They write short clear declarative sentences. They move in a straight line. They keep their purpose in mind and do not wander around the page in search of other ideas.
To see what we are talking about, read Peter Drucker. The clarity of his writing corresponds to the clarity of his ideas. Few writers can match that. Edmund Morgan did it in American history. My Harvard professors were in awe of his ability to completethe most profound of books in 200 pages or less.
Finally, there is Abraham Lincoln's brief Gettysburg Address.
Dr. Samuel Johnson, the author of the first English dictionary and notorious wit, said, Only write for money. It is too hard. Ernest Hemingway said practice was the way he got unplugged. In fact, he said, newspaper writing forced him to be both fast andbrief a perfect combination of talents for the modern world.
If even the best authors find writing tough, don't be surprised you do. As the kids say, Get over it.
Plan the work and then work the plan. In the 17 categories we have listed, save your best letters, faxes and emails. Then reread them and decide which ones are most effective and why. This will improve your correspondence roster by emphasizing yourdocuments that worked best. After a dialogue is over, and the matter safely resolved, check back with the recipient to find out what you did right. Too much emphasis is placed on what people do wrong.
The key is to find out what works and keep running that play. Checking back with people helps. Having other people edit and read your important correspondence helps.
I rarely send anything important out without first having someone else read it. This is in the spirit of measure twice, cut once.
Ineffective writers, with few exceptions, don't go the distance and finish the first draft. Speed through it. Then go back and edit, edit, and edit. Mozart was remarkable because he could do it once, without requiring any revisions. The rest of simply can't do it and shouldn't try.
Some common hints :
· Midsentence punctuation is usually a crutch.
· Watch out for exclamation points and commas in particular.
· Avoid semicolons.
· If possible, never use a colon other than introducing a list.
· Avoid the back and forths of an also, a but, or a however.
· In other words, be straightforward and clear.
· Spice up your correspondence by emphasizing the particulars of a situation.
· Illustrate with a short pertinent story and dont try to be funny.
· Most of the time funny simply doesnt work.
· Stay on message.
Formalizing documents well can make them stand out without being disturbing or intrusive. Block your documents on both the left and right side, termed justifying. This is respectful. In emails or faxes use a salutation such as, Dear Mr. Jones or Dear Paul.End with - best regards - or - sincerely yours.
The test : Would your seventh grade writing teacher lift a brow at what you wrote? If so, rewrite to meet those standards. In the land of the blind the one eyed is king. In a land of informality and false friendliness, the respectful and reasonably formal are kings.
This is a subject unto itself. For more help in this area see our Punctuation Guide CD - 60 Minutes to More Effective Writing. The basic rules are...
· If in doubt cut it out.
· Watch out for over punctuation.
· Avoid colons, commas, and semi-colons. If they appear, re-evaluate your sentence.
· Brevity is still the soul of wit. Keep it short.
· Edit, edit, edit.
· Have others proofread and comment on your writing.
· Think Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Cather and Drucker - avoid Henry James, media lingo, most academic writing, and the ponderous above all.
MBAs are trained to limit their objectives so they can get things done. As one myself, I believe this is the secret to effective personal and business writing.
This is part of your winning plan!
Process and Purpose
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