Category Archives: Posts

Better Business Communications Workshop Slideshow

Last Friday was the final MBA English Support workshop of this semester.   The three students who attended gained some new ideas and improved their self-awareness of their business communication skills.       As identified in a recent Globe and Mail news article,   communications skills are the most highly valued by business these days,  and also one of the most lacking by new employees.     This is something that continuing to improve will only benefit you.    Here is the slideshow from the workshop.

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“Academic Style” or “How to Write so that Others Understand You and Are Impressed”

Style is vitally important in writing.  Your overall writing presentation,  the words you use and how you use them has a great impact on your readers.   And, of course,  you write for your readers.

Academic writers wants to appear academic and professional.  They do this in various ways.   First, they use academic words and phrases,   such as “major”  instead of “big”,   “much”  or “many” rather than “a lot of”,  “effective” rather than “good”.    The words you use should convey precise meaning.  For example,  “good” is too general;  as a reader,  I want to know good in what way? Except for social media,  you do not write the way you speak,  or you should not.    Professional style also avoids jargon, slang, or colloquialisms. This
style of language is too informal for academic professional writing.

Academic writing also adopts a style of writing sentences that are neither too short, nor too long,  but which are clear and demonstrate the writer’s knowledge.    My rule of thumb is that a sentence should not exceed 3 lines on a page.   A sentence should reflect one idea.   An idea can be complex,  thereby requiring numerous clauses.   But if it is too complex,  it is best to break it into several sentences.   Don’t make it too difficult for the reader.   As a writer,   you know what you mean,  but you should put yourself in the shoes of the reader.
One important way to support our points when writing is by examples.   Examples can be introduced within a sentence,   or as a sentence on their own.   Remember to say something about the example given rather than just throw it in.   Try to use powerful examples that are current and ideally universal.    Examples from history don’t necessarily need to be avoided, but they should be blended with those nearer to us in time.
Examples from one’s own country may not necessarily apply in other countries.     Examples must be credible,  relevant,  and easy to comprehend.

One of the challenges writers in Canada who come from other countries face is that what is considered good academic style in their country may not necessarily be considered good in Canada.    In North America,  you don’t write to show off.    Using “multi-syllabic words”   that most people don’t know (for example:  pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis ) or filling your writing with unnecessary words to make it longer  is just bad writing.  The democratic ethos holds that good writers write in a way that anyone with the necessary context and background knowledge should be able to understand.

It is also important to remember that all academic writing is not good academic writing.   There are many bad writers in academia who do not necessarily write clearly and concisely.    A good way to improve your writing is to find some models of  exemplary academic and professional writing,  and emulate them.   Read the Economist or Time magazine.     Or Harvard Business Review.       Find a writer you like and study their style.

Remember it takes time to develop a style that fits you and fits your reader.    Knowing the key principles comes first,  then following them.

You may find these internet resources useful.

You can read the online version of one of the best style books,  appropriately name The Elements of Style here.

Words and phrases to avoid

More words and phrases to avoid  (with alternatives)  from the British Council

Better Business Writing

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  • What makes for good business writing?
  • Can you think of the top ten criteria?
  • What should effective business writing not be?
  • How does this compare with typical business writing in your own country?
  • How does your business writing stack up?

Think of these questions as you engage in and seek to improve your own business writing.

First,  what types of business writing do you do?    What kind of feedback have you gotten about it?

You may not be able to fix everything about your business writing,  but you can make a start by focusing on a few significant trouble spots.      What are three specific things you can improve about your business writing?

A recent Forbes article noted 8 keys to better business writing.    While clearly important for business contexts, they are applicable to all writing.

  1. Know your purpose.
  2. Know and understand your reader.   (What do they need and want?  What do they like?)
  3. Write a quick first draft.  (Don’t over-think things.)
  4. Revise and edit.  (Always be sure to check  before clicking the ‘send’ button.)
  5. Be extremely clear and direct.
  6. Avoid redundancy (of words and ideas).
  7. Avoid jargon.
  8. Use the appropriate tone. (This point is related to point 2;  be neither overly formal, no excessively informal).
To these,  I would add:
9.   Use non-discriminatory language (this link explains it well — scroll down)

Here is a  wonderful example of how writing can be improved.

Remember,   your writing is an immediate and enduring reflection of who you are.

Useful websites:

Good Business Writing Style

8 Keys to Better Business Writing

Business Writing

10 Business Writing Tips Direct from the Experts

Government of Canada’s Language Web Portal plus some business writing resources

The Internet has so many tools and resources these days to help us better do what we do.   The problem is that there is too much and most of it is not very good.   Knowing which tools are best helps immensely.  Here are some I can recommend.

I recently came across this website quite by accident, but it looks very interesting and worthy of exploration.

GovCan

Also,  for business students,   the Business Writer’s Free Library has a bountiful supply of resources.

BWD

 Finally,   this business writing blog is definitely worth subscribing to.

BWB

 

Are you a good presenter?

present1

 

vs.

 

present2
Making effective presentations is a learned skill,  and there are terrific tools and resources available today that make it easier to give great presentations and develop your presentation skills.

Mobile devices like tablets make it even easier,  although their flash limitations make the creation of digital content difficult.     Some experts recommend creating slide shows on a pc,  then using the mobile device to deliver them.

There are far more options than Powerpoint these days,  although it may take some time to learn them.   One of the easiest is  Google Presentation (via Google Drive).     For more dynamic presentations,  you can use Prezi or Haiku Deck.

Compare two different style of digital presentation — the first with Prezi    here

And the same content delivered more traditionally here