Read any newspaper, magazine or website during an election year. It’s finger pointing here, posturing there – messages that are anything but tactful and diplomatic. In short, our candidates, pundits and commentators have taken the politic out of politics.
Most business writers are doing the same thing in the workplace. All too often, the messages we write are alienating customers, estranging bosses, even threatening our job status. Effective business writing is about using a shrewd, politic approach in your content and tone. How do you strive for politic writing?
• Recognize the reader views your writing as a commitment made. Even if he misunderstands your meaning (which will happen and often), the reader will still point to the copy or computer screen and claim “but you wrote it.”
• Be politic not apoplectic. Disagree with a co-worker’s approach? Your writing style should be business-like and courteous. If necessary, walk away from the computer for a while before jumping into your response or disagreement. After you do write it, let it get cold before revising/editing.
• Choose between “I” and “we” appropriately. Are you authorized to speak on behalf of the organization or the department you represent? If not, use the pronoun “I” when expressing opinions or making offers. The use of “we” obligates the organization to what you have written.
• Do not use email for confidential or critical information. Have you ever sent a message to the wrong person? That critical comment, that sarcastic quip you meant to forward to a friend can easily end up in the wrong hands (like the original sender, your boss and/or your personnel file).
• Focus on your own points rather than someone’s misdeeds. Business is about teamwork and leadership. Climb on someone else’s flaws to build your visibility, and your divisiveness shines through.
• Remember, the damage is permanent. Your written documents become part of the archives on the hard drive and live on in the company’s back-up system. If you write something that generates problems, misinforms, or has a backlash, it can – and will – easily be traced back to you.
Don’t get caught writing in a way that negatively influences your work performance, your reputation and your effectiveness. Unlike politicians, you don’t have the luxury of retracting and repositioning those non-politic statements.
As Winston Churchill wrote, “Politics is not a game. It is an earnest business.” Likewise, business is not a game. It is earnest politics. For more clues on improving your business writing skills, click here to purchase the Better Business Writing workbook.
Business Writing, Communications Cues, Email Effectiveness, Leadership, Politic, Relationship-Driven, Results-oriented, Writing