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How to write better emails, letters and reports

If you want your letters, emails, or reports to have an impact on the people who read them, you need to be able to communicate clearly through writing.

If you are unable to get your message across, your written documents won’t have the desired effect on your audience.

Writing is a lot different than speaking to people in person. When you have a conversation with someone, they have a chance to hear the tone of your voice and to see your body language. This makes it easier for them to understand the gist of what you are saying.

Unfortunately, writing doesn’t offer these same advantages. But you should still understand the importance of paper-based communications in a digital world.

You need to be able to get your ideas across using nothing but words. In order to accomplish that, you need to think carefully about what you say and how you say it.

There is a common misconception that writing is an impersonal way to communicate. This is largely due to the fact that people have a tendency to use formal language when writing professional documents, like business brochures.

That doesn’t have to be the case. Even in the business world, it is possible to write engaging documents that are not only easy to read and understand but are also incredibly informative.

How to write better emails, letters and reports

Using the 10 tips below, you can dramatically improve your writing ability. This can help you communicate more effectively through letters, reports, or emails:

  1. Be as concise as possible
  2. Provide all of the necessary information
  3. Choose your verbs and nouns wisely
  4. Use an active voice
  5. Use language that is specific
  6. Vary your sentences
  7. Keep your audience in mind while writing
  8. Try to structure your sentences in a positive way
  9. Make accuracy a priority
  10. Focus on clarity

1. Be as concise as possible

Most people have a tendency to use far too many words when they are writing a letter or creating a document.

Writing that is concise and that gets right to the point is usually far more effective than writing that has a lot of unnecessary words.

In order to accomplish this, you need to be brutal when it comes to editing your documents.

Don’t be afraid to cut out large portions of text if they don’t add to the overall meaning of the document.

Unless you are trying to emphasize a particular point, try not to repeat yourself.

Evaluate every sentence and paragraph in the document to decide whether or not they are necessary to get your ideas across.

2. Provide all of the necessary information

Being concise is one thing. Leaving out key details is another thing altogether.

When you create a letter, you should have a clear idea of exactly what point you are trying to make.

Make sure to include enough information in your document to support your message and to make the idea clear to your readers.

Removing too much information from a document during the editing process is every bit as bad as leaving too much information in. Ideally, a well-written letter should be concise and to the point while still providing essential details.

3. Choose your verbs and nouns wisely

Nouns and verbs lie at the heart of any well-written document. Although adjectives and adverbs can be used to dress up your language, the verbs and nouns are the real meat of the document.

It is important to choose these words carefully.

Using powerful words that clearly get your ideas across in as few words as possible is the best way to add impact to your writing.

4. Use an active voice

If you really want to improve your writing, it is important to understand the difference between active voice and passive voice.

With active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing an action. With passive voice, on the other hand, the subject is being acted upon.

This is a hard distinction to understand without seeing some examples in action.

Consider the difference between the following two sentences:

  1. Billy shoveled the sidewalk.
  2. The sidewalk was shoveled by Billy.

The first sentence is an example of active voice since Billy, who is the subject of the sentence, is performing the action of shoveling the sidewalk. The second sentence, on the other hand, is an example of passive voice. This sentence doesn’t show Billy actively performing an action. In fact, he is no longer even the primary subject of the sentence.

Active sentences tend to be much more powerful than passive ones.

5. Use language that is specific

Think about how you describe events or tell stories when you talk to another person. Chances are, you use descriptive language that helps create an engaging narrative.

Try to apply the same concept to your writing. Choose words and phrases that help your readers understand exactly what you are talking about.

For complex ideas, provide examples to eliminate any confusion.

Limit the use of abbreviations and avoid challenging words wherever possible. Ultimately, the goal should be to make your document as easy to understand as possible for your readers.

6. Vary your sentences

If you use the exact same sentence length and sentence structure over and over again, it will create a boring document that no one will want to read.

You can avoid this problem by varying the length and structure of your sentences. Some should be short while others should be much longer.

This variety helps create a more natural rhythm to your writing that will keep people engaged.

7. Keep your audience in mind while writing

Avoid the temptation to use technical terms or difficult language in your writing. Even if you are writing about a complex topic, you should stick with basic language that is easy to read and understand. That doesn’t mean that you need to treat your readers like they are unintelligent.

However, you should avoid using obscure or technical words. No matter how well educated your audience is, reading complex language can quickly become tiring.

By sticking with more common words, you can keep people more engaged while at the same time making it easier for them to understand what you are saying.

If you are writing in the first person, try to use “I” rather than “we”. The word “we” can make your document feel impersonal. People will usually relate to you much better if you stick with the word “I”.

Unless absolutely necessary, you should avoid writing in the third person. Using phrases like “the writer” when referring to yourself can come across as being condescending.

8. Try to structure your sentences in a positive way

Whenever possible, phrase your sentences in a positive way. Even if you are addressing negative topics, you should be able to restructure your sentences so that they look at the issue from a more positive angle.

Instead of saying something like “We can’t get started until next week,” say something like “We will move forward with that next week.”

When discussing potentially negative topics, ask yourself whether the idea could be framed in a more positive light or whether there are more positive words that could be substituted for negative ones.

9. Make accuracy a priority

Excellent writing is not only factual but it also is free from errors.

Spend some time studying language to avoid problems with spelling and grammar. If you have questions about things like sentence structure or grammar while you are writing, look them up online to make sure that your document is correct.

Perhaps more importantly, you need to make sure that your documents are factual. Never put anything in writing that is untrue.

If you aren’t sure whether or not something is true, you need to make sure to clearly state that in your document. There is a big difference between facts and suspicions.

Always make sure that your written documents are completely true and that they don’t contain any errors that could come back to bite you.

10. Focus on clarity

Ultimately, the goal of most business-related documents is to get an idea across or to educate readers. This type of writing is very rarely about entertainment.

To make sure that your readers understand the point you are trying to make, you should keep your writing as clear as possible.

Avoid using language that could be interpreted in more than one way. Instead, make sure that the meaning of your document is absolutely clear to your readers.

Go through your letter or documents sentence by sentence to make sure that no one will misunderstand what you are trying to say.

After all this is done, get an appropriately sized letter ready and look for the right sized postage stamp – usastampguide.com has details on this – and send it to the appropriate person.

Together, all of these tips will help you write much more compelling letters, reports, or emails, allowing you to clearly communicate your ideas to your readers.

How to write better emails, letters and reports

Ben Matthews

Ben Matthews is a digital marketing consultant specialising in tech, media and charity sectors. Email me at ben@montfort.io.

https://www.buymeacoffee.com/benrmatthews

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