Monday, March 14, 2005

No Need for Rudeness

After reading Kate Muldoon’s article, The Art of Business Writing, I sat in front of my laptop screen feeling, well, offended.

The Art of Business Writing.(Brief Article)
source: Direct, January 1, 2001.
via: HighBeam Research
COPYRIGHT 2001 PRIMEDIA Business Magazines & Media Inc. All rights reserved.

According to the article, business writing can be summed up as “putting together a report or presentation that explains why you're doing what you've been doing.” I’m wondering, did the editors take liberty with Ms. Muldoon’s article – which may have been about, say, writing a good project report – to extrapolate her advice for all of business communications? Or does she really think that business writing is little more than drawing up project plans and reports?

The article mentions four things that business writing should be but seldom is:

1. Brief and to the point.
2. Organized.
3. Accurate.
4. Conclusive.

I’m left thinking that this isn’t what I would have offered. Often, business communication can’t be brief, although it certainly should be accurate. But meaningful and compelling are more important than "conclusive," I believe.

The call for "brevity" is rumbling across the communication tundra these days. I think I've made a call or two for "keeping it brief" myself. But I wouldn't mandate the short-form of business writing. Certain concepts – especially in technology – take time to communicate and simplify effectively. An certain formats -- say the white paper -- allow the space, and the expectation on the part of readers, that they will have to pay attention, at least for several minutes or more.

YES! Let's hear it for paying attention to what we read!

Some concepts take courting; persuasion is a journey as much as a destination. Some audiences take wooing. The writer must earn the audience’s trust, break the reader in, as he or she presents a story that is complex, but intriguing—-at least to the audience at hand.

Here's a secret: It's as much art as science. We communications professionals like to sound like we’re way smart by promising you a formula to good business writing. Some will tell you that you can follow a few simple rules and you’ll be cranking out copy like IBM.

But knowing what it takes and executing effectively are far from formulaic activities. They take, beyond talent, a real love of the way language
can shape meaning. And, quite honestly, a belief in the magic of connecting through language.

Ms. Muldoon warns would-be business writers of the benefits of brevity: “Most business writers tend to ramble. Long paragraphs are deadly. Nobody asked you for a book; they just want a quick summary of what's happened.”

I don’t know. I’ve had a few people ask me for a book.

In fact, it’s a project I should get busy on.

Thanks Kate.

Good evening Jeneane Sessum, I find it very refreshing to occasionally find a comment such as yours with an unusual topic such as No Need for Rudeness. It somehow ads to ones list of lifes experiences.

I have a soft spot for blogs related to article submissions and /or sites that have a central theme around article submissions type items.

Once again, thank you Jeneane Sessum, keep up the unusual posts. :-)
Thanks, Jeneane, for your insightful piece, especially your insistence that business writing is "as much art as science."

I like to think of business writing as a craft, in the same way pottery-making is a craft. The potter needs knowledge of the chemistry of clay and glazing, but also a sense of aesthetics, of "magic."
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