Business Writing: What Happened to Consideration?

Today’s post is by Jacob Yount. Jacob and I met through the Falchettos (the lovely Ameena and the adventurous John), and we have stayed in touch mainly via Twitter. When we started to have a discussion about business writing and consideration for our audiences, I asked Jacob if he would write a guest post. He graciously agreed.


Be considerate.When it comes to your business writing, how considerate are you of your audience?

Lack of consideration for your audience, whether a colleague, a client or a prospect, is, on the flipside, a lack of consideration for self.

Misunderstandings lead to adverse effects.  

An audience that doesn’t understand or relate, doesn’t continue to read.

Colleagues who receive quick, pointless emails start to question their fellow workmate’s credibility.

Overseas suppliers who receive a cryptic email that wasn’t proofread for an extra five minutes to ensure it was understandable may end up sending incorrect or poor quality merchandise.

Why has the quality of business writing deteriorated to this current state?  If inconsiderate writing leads to bad results…why do folks do it? That’s part of the conundrum of the inconsiderate;  if they could fully think about the results they might watch more closely how they interact with others; whether in face-to-face communication or in an email.

One would think, in 2012, with the ease of instant communication, communication would actually improve.

Communication that needs to be descriptive has become brief. First names are no longer used.

The care with which we learned to write a business letter in middle school is considered archaic.

Why has this happened?

We’re too busy:  “My tasks are more important than your tasks. What’s on my plate is more important than taking time to make sure my writing is sensible and helpful…let me just throw everything on the floor, and you pick up the bits.”

This is the mindset I feel is behind many of the emails in my industry, especially working in China business. I see many of the emails that Western importers send to Chinese suppliers.

Chinese suppliers are graciously using a second language (English) in their communication, and buyers email them in cryptic blurbs and quickie slang. Once errors or delays happen because of cloudy communication and understanding, the Western importer is stunned and absolutely cannot believe how this could have happened.

Are you a respecter of persons when it comes to email?  Do you email your clients in a very professional manager and then flip your vendors an email you didn’t even proofread?

Initial impressions and the relationship’s direction – all have their foundation from the very first email.

Downgraded ability to focus: Today, there are many forces fighting aggressively for real estate in our mind. Employers, family, online relationships, all the fast-paced luxuries that we now have at our fingertips, are vying for our attention.

We’re taking on more than we can handle, and we compromise the art of our message and the craft behind our efforts for quickie results so that we can move on to the next distraction.

People discount their written communication; the written word is an avenue to build credibility and reflects who we are…but many don’t cash in on this simple opportunity.

We’re spoiled: We’ve got it easy today.  There were written and mailed letters, then the fax, then email…when it was just these three mediums, say late 90’s early ‘00’s…yes, it wasn’t as efficient, but there was a time when a written message meant more. The sender imputed more effort and that lent strength to the importance of the message. Hazy communication waters down the seriousness of the matter.

A million texting forums and social media outlets later and communication has become too easy, too familiar. Familiarity tends to breed a mega-causal attitude.

Every form of written communication does not have to be mortuary-uptight but improvement in our written communication can come from having more consideration for our intended audiences. The more you consider others – prospects, colleagues, vendors – the more strength and understanding will follow your message.

Before sending an email, ask:

  • Will they understand?
  • Does this reflect well on me, my company, my personal brand?
  • Could this lead to misunderstandings that could be detrimental to the project?

Jacob Yount lives on the coast of North Carolina and works in China export and import; his main focus is in the promotional product and branded merchandise industries. He lived in China for ten years and is enjoying being back in the States and recovering in the Carolinas. Find him at his blog,  http://jacobyount.com, and on Twitter (@jlmade).

Comments

  1. Thanks again, Erin, for featuring my post. In hindsight, my topic may be a bit dated, but I’m an ol’ fashion guy. Either way, whether in writing or not, “consideration” is always something in which we can use tune ups – especially me. 
     
    I’ve enjoyed networking with you and I’m very stoked to be featured in the hallowed halls of Write Right. 

    •  @Jacob Yount I don’t think consideration ever is or should go out of style. Consideration seems to be missing in a lot of places these days, but that only makes the places where consideration is held in esteem much more dear.
       
      I’ve enjoyed networking with you, too, and these hallowed halls are meant to be open – to visitors and guest bloggers alike. 🙂

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