5 Simple Tips to Improve Your Writing Right Now

As a freelance writer, I’ve talked with a lot of business owners and professionals who have shared that writing isn’t Tips to improve your writing now.among their core competencies. But communicating effectively via email, blogs, and social media channels requires a degree of writing aptitude.

Writing well in business will help you:

  • Express your ideas more clearly.
  • Define your expectations.
  • Gain approval and acceptance.
  • Project your intentions.
  • Move prospects, clients, colleagues, employees, and vendors to action.

While bringing in the help of a professional writer/editor can can benefit you immensely if writing isn’t among your entrepreneurial strong points, there are a few things you can do on your own to improve your writing immediately.

Quick Writing Fixes to Make You a Better Communicator

    • Get to the point.
      Don’t overcomplicate your message by going off on tangents or trying to cram too many main points into a single communication. Avoid confusion by making your focus clear to your readers. You’ll find them more likely to stay tuned in if they know what to expect.

 

    • Use bullet points.
      When you’ve got several key points to address, separate and emphasize them by putting them in a bulleted list. It will help keep your writing more organized, and readers will find it easier to digest that information.

 

    • Give it some space.
      Large chunks of text are a turn off to readers. Infuse your writing with “eye rests” (a.k.a. paragraph breaks and white space between them) so your audience can consume your content without feeling overwhelmed by the weight of too much text in a tight space.

 

    • Spell check – and then double check.
      I know. Spell Check has its flaws, but it does pick up on blatant fat-finger errors. Always, always, always run Spell Check on your writing. And when you’re finished, look it over again yourself (or better yet, ask someone else to proofread it) to pick up on any sneaky oopses that might have slipped by. Even though most readers are tolerant of a small mistake (We’re all human after all.), it looks unprofessional and sloppy if you’ve got multiple errors in a single piece of writing.

 

  • Read it aloud.
    I think this is the very best way to ensure you’re on target with your writing. Whenever you write, whatever you write, read it out loud before sharing it with anyone else. Not only will you find this effective for catching mistakes, you’ll also be able to assess the appropriateness of your tone. Does it sound like you? Is it implying sarcasm you hadn’t intended? Does it seem too long?

Incorporating the above won’t turn you into a stellar writer overnight, but it will improve your readers’ experience immediately. And it will make them more likely to tune in rather than tune out.

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Did I Just Say That?? 4 Words that Could Destroy Your Professional Credibility

Your professionalism can make or break the deal as you communicate and collaborate as a solopreneur.  When talking – Oops gestureeither when meeting one on one or when presenting to a group – you can instantly downgrade your authority and credibility a notch or two by repeatedly making annoying speaking faux pas. Whether you use any of the below because of nervousness, uncertainty of what you want to say, or bad habit, consider making a conscious effort to limit them in your conversations.

Spoken Words that Could Make You Sound Less Professional

LikeI’m like, “Why do so many people say like?” I’m calling myself out on this one! I know many other people who use it conversationally, too. For me, it’s a bad habit I’m working to break. Occasionally using it won’t do much damage, but frequent use will make you sound like a preteen star on a Nickelodeon sitcom.

Um – We tend to use this meaningless filler when we’re gathering our thoughts and searching for what we want to say next. Used sparingly, it won’t be too distracting. But when inserted before or after every sentence it detracts from your message. You’ll sound more together by inserting a silent pause instead of an “um” as you find the right words to use next.

You knowThis is another overused phrase, you know?  If the people you’re talking with already know, why are you telling them? This, too, is usually used out of habit. Again, used minimally it won’t hurt, but overused it will make you sound less professional than you are.

Cuss words – While they sometimes have a place and purpose, often they don’t. Know your audience before you use expletives. Some people are tolerant of them, but others aren’t. Not only will you risk sounding unprofessional by using unnecessary cuss words, but you’ll also risk offending people. Before you curse, ask yourself if it really is the best way to drive home your point. Beware of using swear words gratuitously and freely to the point where they become a hard-to-break habit.

What other words or speaking habits do you think make professionals look/sound less authoritative and respect-worthy?

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

By Dawn Mentzer

Think the Little Things Don’t Matter? Think Again!

By Dawn Mentzer

 

As a solopreneur, your personal brand can make or break you in business. It influences not only how prospects, Your Personal Brandclients and colleague perceive you; it also affects the expectations that others have regarding your work – and your style of communicating. When working to establish your personal brand, you need to be genuine and you need to be consistent. Of course, it typically doesn’t take long for people who are dishonest when building their brands to be discovered as fakers, but if you stray from conducting business (in even the smallest of ways) according to what your personal brand is known for, you risk creating misunderstanding  and unintentional hard feelings.

A Real Life Example
Last week, after several days following my return from vacation, someone whom I’ve been working with on a project emailed me to ask if something might be amiss that would have strained our working relationship. I was stunned! It completely caught me off-guard because I absolutely adore working with this person. She’s responsive, bright, enthusiastic, detailed and extremely personable…I couldn’t imagine what might have led her to believe there was a problem. Realizing that addressing her concerns needed more than just a reply email, I picked up the phone and called her.

Turns out that there was nothing particular in the content of my emails that caused her to think I was upset. However, since arriving home, I unintentionally wasn’t as expressive in my emails. Specifically, I wasn’t using as many exclamation points as I’ve been known to in past communications. I was indeed lighter on my “!”s than usual, but not because I was in any way angry; in the hustle and bustle of catching up after over a week away, I quite simply didn’t take the time or pay attention to that little finishing touch when emailing.

I felt perfectly horrible for the misunderstanding, and she felt silly for misinterpreting my punctuation (or lack of). Thankfully, we both felt comfortable in being honest and open with each other to set the record straight. Otherwise, some non-existent problem might have festered and caused a permanent rift in our collaborations.

The Lesson
If something so seemingly trivial as not using exclamation points in an email can generate a misunderstanding, think about what could happen if you depart to a larger degree from what people expect from you and your brand. The little things really do matter – whether you realize it or not!

Your turn! Have you ever experienced a breakdown in communication or a misunderstanding that you could have avoided by being true to your brand?

Image courtesy of David Castillo / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Google

I Can’t Believe I Just Did That! 3 Careless Email Mistakes that Can Leave a Mark

“Oops! I can’t believe I just did that!” Who hasn’t said that to themselves at one time or another?Oops sign

In this break-neck, fast-paced business environment that we all live in, it’s easy to make silly mistakes when communicating with peers, prospects and clients. Generally, the errors of our rushed ways don’t cause permanent harm, but occasionally a mistake can leave a lasting mark that could tarnish your image of professionalism or cost you valuable business. So why take the chance?

With just a little thought and a tiny bit of extra time, you can greatly reduce your likelihood of making fatal foibles.

Here’s a short list of some “oops” moments that could happen to nearly anyone and a tip or two for making sure that they don’t happen to you…

Sending an email to the wrong contact

With the auto-fill features in email clients, it’s a wonder this doesn’t happen more often. Sending the wrong proposal or invoice to a client wouldn’t a great impression make. Though I’ve never erred to that degree, I admit that it has happened in a much more minor way. And so I’ve learned to be extra careful. Always, ALWAYS double-check the contacts you have in your To, CC, and BC fields.

Sending an email to ALL Contacts rather than a select group

True story: About 2 years or so ago, as volunteer editor for our church’s newsletter, I sent my normal monthly email reminder to our congregation to remind them that the deadline for submitting articles and info was on its way. When selecting the group for distribution, I immediately clicked “select all” based on the first email address that appeared in the lineup. Turns out, the first email address in my church distribution list was the first email address in my entire base of contacts. So rather than toggling to my church distribution and selecting “all” there, I had mistakenly selected ALL my contacts. Luckily, everyone was in good humor about it – and truthfully I think they had a lot of fun with it based on the (much-deserved) smarty-pants replies that I got in return. But had the subject matter and message been something altogether different, the end result could have been far more devastating than me becoming the target of some light-hearted ribbing.

Moral of the story: Check to make sure you’ve selected the appropriate group before sending a mass email. And if the group members don’t know each other or otherwise wouldn’t want to have their email addresses shared with others in the group, be sure to add the group in your BC field.

Accidentally adding an extra contact to an email

Occasionally, I catch myself almost doing this when sending an email to someone with whom I will be sharing the email address of someone else in my contacts. So that I can easily just copy and paste it into the body of the email, I’ll bring up the email address in the To field by just typing the name and letting the auto-fill feature do its thing. Works great…provided you remember to remove that email address from the To field before you send your message to its intended recipient.

Tip: Do a “cut and paste.” That way any remnants of the email won’t be formatted properly and won’t reach that unintended contact even if you goof up.

Again, mistakes happen. And they happen to all of us, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to prevent them!

I’d love to hear your email or other communications “Oops!” stories – if you dare to share! What silly mistakes have you made – or has someone you know made – that either did or could have left a mark?

Click here to register for the FREE Referral Source Secrets from Solopreneur Superstars telesummit!

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your Business Communications’ Best Friends and Worst Enemies

As I’m brainstorming to prepare to present a coaching session on better business writing to the administrative staff of a local institution, I’m thinking about some of the common challenges that all of us face when communicating via the written word.
Whether you’re a business owner, marketing manager, CEO or administrative assistant, your communications to the outside world – and internally within your organization – should be as accurate and error-free as possible. Why? Oh, just those small considerations of demonstrating professionalism, building confidence in your capabilities, and projecting that you care.

Hey, we all make mistakes! But you can avoid some fatal writing errors if you keep in mind – and persevere over – the things that can be both your best friends and worst enemies when crafting business communications.

Time

The more you take when writing and proofreading what you wrote, the fewer spelling and grammatical errors you’ll make. The less you take when writing and proofreading what you wrote, the more likely it is that you’ll miss little mistakes that can make you look like a grade school dropout. Like it or not. It works that way.

Focus

Multitasking isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When you write emails, letters, or anything else, give them your full attention when you’re tending to them. Our brains, even the best and brightest of them, can’t do everything all at the same time. If you focus on the writing task at hand, you’ll make fewer errors.


Interest

This could be a tough one, but with the right frame of mind you can make it work for you. Your level of interest in what you’re writing will dictate the attention to detail you give it. Communicating isn’t always exciting or glamorous. It can be extraordinarily mundane. But try to frame specific writing tasks as part of a bigger picture – one that has the potential to strengthen relationships and make inroads to greater things. If you see purpose in what you’re writing, you’ll view it as less of a chore and be more naturally inclined to do it right.

Those three factors can either make or break the technical effectiveness of your business communications. They can even make an impact on the tone of what you write (perhaps the topic for a later post!). So, whenever possible, give your writing tasks and projects adequate time, uninterrupted focus and enthusiasm, so you can produce communications that will put your best foot forward and make a professional impression.

Time, focus or interest…which presents the biggest challenge to you when trying to communicate flawlessly?

 

2 Rules of Business Communications: Mind your “p”s and “q”s; Dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s

When running your own solo business, communication is at the foundation of building and maintaining client Business communications-laptopsrelationships and referral opportunities. Effective communication goes beyond being quick to respond; it demands a sense of social common sense and setting the right tone as well. You need to mind your “p”s and “q”s – and dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s, too.

“p”s and “q”s

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about why being nice is good for business. Unfortunately, because of the hurried, break-neck pace at which we do everything, a lot of us tend to make our replies short, sweet and sometimes abrupt to the point of seeming rude. You’ve gotten a few of those emails, right? I have, and it’s a complete turn off. There’s no excuse for  brevity void of manners. It literally takes just seconds to soften and sensitize an email or social media response with the polite additions of: “Please…”, “Thank you…”, “I’m sorry…”, “Good morning…”, “Have a wonderful day.”, or “Don’t hesitate to call me…” and so forth. And be attentive to your tone as well. Re-read what you’ve typed (after you’ve stepped away for a few minutes) and change your wording if anything can be construed as harsh or unnecessarily emotional or confrontational.

i’s and t’s

Whether you’re crafting a new message or responding to someone else’s, being as thorough and accurate as possible from the start saves everyone involved time and energy. It also makes you more credible and trustworthy. Check your facts; check your spelling and grammar. We all make mistakes, but the fewer the better. And if you do slip up on your “i”s and “t”s, you should darn well mind your “p”s and “q”s when you send your follow up message!

When communicating via email, letter, or social media, the little things can work for or against you. With attention to minding your “p”s and “q”s and dotting your “i”s and crossing your “t”s in all interactions, you’ll make more positive first impressions – and keep the good will flowing.

Your turn! Have you ever found yourself wishing you had a “do-over” for a rushed email or social media response? Has a business’s poor communications ever make you decide to do business with someone else instead?


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