Ahead of the Belfast Telegraph Writing Course, Lynda Fyffe-McFadden from MAST Ireland explains why effective business writing is key to a firm's reputation
How important is proper business writing in the current economic environment?
It's very important. Customers want to feel confident that they are dealing with reputable companies that they can trust. So letters, documents and websites full of errors don't help.
Research carried out by Royal Mail found that 74% of customers wouldn't trust a company and 30% wouldn't buy from a company that had spelling mistakes or poor grammar.
That's how customers felt before the current downturn; they're going to be even choosier today.
In Northern Ireland, where small businesses are critical to our economy, one lost opportunity could be the difference between survival and going under.
So cut-and-paste business proposals, where time and attention haven't been given to the needs of the potential client, means customers will simply go elsewhere. Business opportunities are lost due to poorly drafted documents and banks may even refuse to give loans because business plans are poorly written and presented.
In what areas of business are clear and concise writing most useful?
It's useful in all areas of business, public or private sectors, and especially in companies where there's a tendency to use technical jargon or management-speak.
Professions such as accountancy, law and engineering have their own terminology which can often be confusing.
Customers don't want to have to work hard to understand what you're offering. So writing clearly and concisely using everyday plain English could be the thing that helps make your products and services stand out in a busy market.
Give us an example of a mistake commonly made in written business communications.
The ease with which we now switch between our email and mobile phones is starting to have an impact on business writing. We're seeing examples of text language creeping into client and customer communications particularly amongst younger professionals. New technology has certainly helped the flow of communication, but it hasn't helped the standard of communication.
Can learning to write more effectively save me time?
Yes it can. How much time have you wasted following up email trails and playing email ping-pong because someone wasn't clear in their first message?
How many managers have had to correct grammar and punctuation mistakes in their employees' documents? Just one hour a week spent correcting mistakes can really add up. Time means money in business and writing badly is a cost that many companies just can't afford.
The next Belfast Telegraph Business Writing course is scheduled for Wednesday, March, 21. To reserve your place email: firstname.lastname@example.org