Business Writing Skills – Toolbox, not a Hammer

Published on 2012-03-31

Swiss Army KnifeI’VE BEEN DOING A LOT OF BUSINESS WRITING trainings recently. One thing that might be specific to my Chinese trainees is that they want the ‘perfect’ answer. What can they do to make sure that their writing (specifically in English to their international recipients) will be totally effective? Especially with the engineers that I train, they want a ‘black box’, where input A = result B.
I need to reply, ‘Not going to happen’.
It depend upon:

  • On the message
  • On how the message is structured
  • On the situation
  • On the skill of the writer
  • On the filters of the recipient
  • On the situation of the recipient
  • On the mood of the recipient
  • On how busy the recipient is
  • On the preferred communication of the recipient
  • On the relationship between the two communicators
  • On the knowledge of the language used

And so on…
Using the hammer analogy in the title, to the owner of only a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So, when I train certain techniques in class, I bring out my trusty Swiss Army knife and make the analogy of using the proper tool/technique for the overall situation. Sometimes the scissors are a better choice than the knife. Sometimes you need the corkscrew. Rarely, you will need the saw. Analyse what your goals and purposes are, then use the proper tool.
This emphasises that business writing is a skill. Through using a wide variety of techniques and practice, the efficiency and professionalism of their business writing will improve.