Writing Tips


  • When writing consider the recipients. What do they know already? What can you tell them?
  • Outline your memos and letters before beginning to write.
  • When writing reports, summarize key points or conclusions on the first page and document them with more information on subsequent pages.
  • Write like you speak to make your writing as readable as possible.
  • Learn the writing style of your organization and follow it. Don’t use flowery language (many adjectives and verbs) when inappropriate.
  • Have your secretary or assistant edit and proofread your correspondence for sentence structure and grammatical errors.
  • Keep dictionary thesaurus on hand to check spelling and word usage.
  • Use variety of sentence structures—simple, complex, and compound—to add interest to your writing.
  • When writing for a non-ethical audience, have a non-technical person identify jargon. Then either eliminate it or include a glossary defining the terms.
  • Use charts and tables wherever possible to present numerical information.
  • Use “action verbs” to add punch to your message.
  • Eliminate weak words like “very,” “interesting,” “often,” and other bland adjectives or adverbs.
  • Keep paragraphs short. Make sure the content of a paragraph revolves around only one thought—the topic sentence.
  • If you do a large amount of routine correspondence, standardize it as much as possible.
  • If procrastination is a problem, start writing a rough draft early so you have time to reverse it at least once.
  • When allocating blocks of time for writing, set aside periods of one to one-and-a-half hours, rather than trying to do it in segments of 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Develop a flash card system to work in your own common misspellings.
  • Dictate correspondence, memos, and so forth, to save time.
  • Seek immediate and specific feedback on reports you write.
  • Take a second or third look at your memos before sending them.
  • Use a grammar checking software program on your computer to identify errors you frequently make, and use that feedback to focus your efforts to improve your writing.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Ego Meetings


What about the manager who purports to believe the only way to get information from subordinates is by meeting? This manager may be seeking ego satisfaction.  Meetings are not for holding court. It may be a pleasant way to get reports, but it is far from efficient. Any career-minded individual caught in such a situation needs to seriously consider his or her position and prospects.

Evaluate your meeting schedule. If a memo will serve, write a memo. If an informal conversation will work, converse. If a meeting is the only, or best, solution, hold a meeting, but make sure it is a good one.

Avoid being caught in the meeting  cycle. Help stamp out meeting mania. Don’t be part of the problem.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Meeting Management: Writing Agenda or Memo


A written memo or agenda is the best means of giving and securing information and if properly put together will focus you as well as the recipients on the objective of the meeting and the means to achieve it. During the meeting it can also be used as a guide and reference, and after the meeting it can serve as a reminder of what was to be accomplished and a means of checking on follow-up actions. Time spent preparing a written agenda will save time during any meeting. Keep it short. Write no agenda or memo longer than one page. Any additional materials, charts, or graphs necessary for the meeting should be included on separate pages, stapled or paper-clipped to your one-page memo or agenda.

The memo or agenda should state the objective of the meeting, the issues to be discussed, the time to meeting will begin and end, the place, the participants involved, and what is expected of them in the way of preparation before the meeting.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Writing Useful Instructions


When you need to explain in writing how to do something, a set of step-by-step instructions is your best choice. By enumerating the steps, you make it easy for readers to perform the process in the correct sequence. Your goal is to provide a clear, self-sufficient explanation so that readers can perform the task independently.

Gather Equipment

  1. Writing materials (pen and paper, typewriter, computer)
  2. Background materials (previous memos, policy manuals, manufacturer’s booklets, etc.)
  3. When necessary, the apparatus being explained (machine, software package, or other equipment)

Prepare

  1. Perform the task yourself, or ask experts to demonstrate it or describe it to you in detail.
  2. Analyze prospective readers’ familiarity with the process so that you can write instructions at their level of understanding.

Make your Instructions Clear

  1. Include four elements: an introduction, a list of equipment and materials, a description of the steps involved in the process, and a conclusion.
  2. Explain in the opening why the process is important and how it is related to a larger purpose.
  3. Divide the process into short, simple steps presented in order of occurrence.
  4. Present the steps in a numbered list, or if presenting them in paragraph format, use words indicating time or sequence, such as first and then.
  5. If the process involves more than ten steps, divide them into groups or stages identified with headings.
  6. Phrase each step as a command (“Do this” instead of “You should do this”); use active verbs; use precise, specific terms (“three weeks” instead of “several weeks”).
  7. When appropriate, describe how to tell whether a step has been performed correctly and how one step may influence another. Warn readers of possible damage or injury from a mistake in a step, but limit the number of warnings so that readers do not underestimate their importance.
  8. Include diagrams of complicated devices, and refer to them in appropriate steps.
  9. Summarize the importance of the process and the expected results.

Test your Instructions

  1. Review the instructions to be sure they are clear and complete. Also judge whether you have provided too much detail.
  2. Ask someone else to read the instructions and tell you whether they make sense and are easy to follow.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Memos and Reports


Memos and Reports are perhaps the most commonly used medium for communicating business information and probably the most abused. The benefits of using memos and reports are that they allow the manager to communicate a lot of detailed information at one time. They also provide documentation of what was communicated that can be helpful in the future. The same message can be communicated to a number of people within a relatively short period of time.

The problem with memos is that they often go unread for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They have no clear objective or purpose.
  • They are too long.
  • They are written in a way that is difficult for the reader to understand.
  • Irrelevant data is included.

Reports are also a problem in many companies. Stacks and stacks of reports are generated and circulated on a regular basis and much of the time no one reads them because:

  • The reports are sent to the wrong people.
  • The reports are prepared in such a way that it is difficult to extrapolate the information needed.
  • Too much information is communicated.
  • The reports have not changed over time to meet the changing need of the managers.

If you are generating memos and reports within your area, you’ll want to make sure that you are not guilty of any of these shortcomings. If your people are using memos and reports generated by other areas that are not meeting their information needs, you should work with your peers and/or higher-ups to make the necessary changes.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Memos and Letters


When people have accomplished something extraordinary, put your praise in writing. Words are easy to say but it takes time and effort to write them down. Even if it is a two- or three-liner, people will appreciate it.

Letters on your personal stationery should be reserved for those special occasions when a person has worked exceptionally hard and has accomplished something truly outstanding.

Memos and letters can also be effective when a person has made a major error or has made the same error on numerous occasions.. when you want a person to think long and hard about what he has done wrong, put it in writing. This should only be done on rare occasions.

There are two rules that should never be violated when giving people feedback via memos and letters:

  1. Make sure the memo or letter is sent very close to the time of the event or accomplishment. A thank-you note or a note of raprimand sent two or three weeks after the fact defeats the purpose of the memo in the first place. In either case, the memo or letter ahould be marked “Confidential.”
  2. Always personalize the memo or letter. If a group of people has worked exceptionally hard, don’t send the individuals a memo addressed to the group. Sending an individual a memo addressed to the group is like throwing a crumb to a hungry person. When a person has given his all to a project he needs to be recognized as an individual, regardless of how many people were involved in making it happen.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Lectures, Line of Sight

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