Compose a structured written business message

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Compose a structured written business message

15.08.2008 ob 09:47

A written business message is one of the methods of business communication. And like every other managerial activity, written communication has its own policy. The policy of communication arises from the culture of the organisation, values, habits, interest networks and relationships. The formation of an effective and successful written message includes planning, formulating, improving and editing the message. However, the goal is always one. The writer wishes to attract the reader to read and accept the message. It is therefore important to compose a well-structured and particularly a clearly composed written message.

Formulating a well-structured message depends on its contents, the right thoughts, reasons, information and proposals. The content of a business message is of utmost importance, while the manner in which it is expressed comes second. Therefore - clarity and intelligence before all else. Of course, a good structure and the manner of delivery make the message more effective.

The formulation of a written message consists of two steps. In the first step, the writer logically arranges the components into groups, while in the second step these groups are arranged into a logical sequence. The components can be classified into three groups:

  1. The basic thought represents a core around which the writer formulates a message.
  2. The basic thought is supported by arguments - a minimum of three or a maximum of five, as otherwise these cannot be processed simultaneously by an average reader.
  3. Each argument is supported by concrete and convincing evidence. These can include simple information, comparisons, concise descriptions, statements, quotes of influential persons and, of course, graphical presentations.

A poorly arranged written message is often characterised by mistakes regarding contents, analyses and the sequence of different parts of the content. Writers therefore often make the following mistakes in business writing:

  • abuse the reader’s patience by making too long introductions and starting with the core of the message too late,
  • fill the text with superfluous information, which consume the readers’ time and make the message unclear,
  • mix up the essential statements and do not put them into a logical sequence that would help the reader,
  • omit essential information which would enable the reader to form an opinion and take action.

In addition, a business message will only have a suitable effect on the reader if he/she ascertains that it is based on a reliable and credible source. The credibility of a writer or sender is believable only when:

  • the writer demonstrates that he/she is familiar with and understands the reader’s position,
  • introduces his/her recommendations or indicates other reliable sources,
  • supports his/her statements with solid facts, and not with exaggerated statements,
  • uses words which build up the trust in the reader,
  • clearly believes in him/herself and the message he/she is trying to convey.

And these are just some of the factors which influence the effectiveness of written business communication. In conclusion, let us enumerate some rules which will help us compose a clear written business message.

  1. The message should be as short as possible.
  2. Think about the readers, their views and experience.
  3. Write with the intention of explaining and not to making an impression.
  4. Write in a natural way, use the style which is smooth and attracts attention.
  5. Write short sentences. Let the length of sentences vary, however, on average they should contain less than 20 words.
  6. Avoid compound sentences, and take care when composing long and short words.
  7. Use words which are familiar. This will enable you to avoid rarely used words.
  8. Avoid jargon, unless you are sure that it will be understood by readers.
  9. Avoid superfluous words.
  10. Use expressions which the reader can visualise.
  11. Use active, not passive voice.
  12. Each part of the message should be relevant.
  13. Make sure that the content has all relevant points.
  14. Retain ratio and relationship, and put appropriate stress on the order of importance.
  15. If you allow the reader to read between the lines, you will be left at the mercy of his/her imagination. 
  16. Be careful when using figures because they attract attention. Decide when it is better to use absolute values, and when percentages and vice versa. When stating figures, be exact, and when rounding up, opt for accuracy.

Just like in the business world in general, business communication demands a feel for tactfulness and good manners. Writers should take special care when the readers are their superiors, when they at least partly depend on the reader’s favourable opinion of them. Tactfulness and good manners necessitate more time and attention, however, they can be bring bigger rewards.

Summarised after “Poslovno komuniciranje: Evropske razsežnosti”, Maribor 2004


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