The rise of communication via email and text messages has contributed to the demise of the formal business letter, but there are still many parts of a real estate agent’s job that call for clear, concise writing skills. Andrew Daddo examines why “writer’s block” is a common office disorder.
It’s about understanding your content and your audience. Organising your document into a common sense structure not only helps you, the writer, but also the reader.
In life, as in business, the best thing we’ve got is our word. In business, once you’ve offered your spoken words, you generally have to back it up with the written word. Hmmm, fun times at the Typewriter Corral! Sound familiar? You have something to say, and it’s pretty straight forward, but after staring at that pulsating line on the screen for as long as you can bear it, you launch into your correspondence.
“Dear Barry.” No. Bugger. Too formal.
“Hi, Barry” ?
“Hey, Barry” ?
Hang on, you’re going to be mates, you want to work together, do business and share the spoils of your relationship. You want him to like you, because if you can strike up a good relationship this time around, there’s an excellent chance you’ll work together again. So, with careless abandon, you launch yourself out on a linguistic limb and begin with: “Hey, Bazza, you tool. How’s it hangin?”
Vaguely satisfied and exhausted, you pick up the phone and find someone to have coffee with, promising you’ll finish the letter later. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Writing can be a
difficult and time-consuming business. I’m not sure if it’s tied up in the left brain right brain equation or not, but it’s a pretty safe assumption that whether you can communicate in words or not has got little to do with what school you went to or how smart you are and more to do with being confident in what you want to say.
There are any number of reasons people find it difficult to write. It might be a matter of where to start or where to end. How much is too much? What do I leave in, but then, what can I leave out? What’s the difference between “advise” and “advice”? And if I ask someone will they think I’m an idiot? Maybe they’ll disregard me, or worse, report me to their boss. Or is it “they’re” boss? Or “there” boss? OK fine, will they report me to the person they answer to who is currently sitting over there watching me while (or is it “whilst”) I try to resolve this stupid question?
If I’ve got a lot of things to say, how do I get them in the right order? Where’s the logic in putting a proposal together? Do I start with the big ticket items and dribble away until the
end, or do I start small and hit ‘em hard at the end?
What tone I should be using? Should I be supplying the relevant information in a clear concise way, or does my reader want a commentary? Is it a “three bedroom house” or a fabulously appointed three bedroom house with grand sweeping views of…, um, well, I can’t say “next door”, but can I say “district views”? Is it a good idea to put together great slabs of
adjectives or would a picture tell the same story? Even though I know I’m going to sweat over this proposal for hours, is anyone going to read all of it, anyway? Heeeeeeeeeeeeeelp!
Writing doesn’t have to be a punishment, but it does take some time and thought. No one ever woke up a Wallaby or an Australian cricketer or even the best selling agent in the district. These things take time and effort and practice: just as clear, effective writing does.
The best way to begin is to understand what it is you’re trying to say and get it into its logical order or sense. The objective for you, the writer, is to simplify the writing process so your reader has a reasonable chance of understanding what you are saying on the first reading. With a little knowledge and practice, you will spend less time writing and your audience will spend less time reading.
Clear writing, like any communication, leads to less misunderstandings and less complications. When we attempt to get too clever, to bamboozle our reader with our own intelligence, things can go awry.
While it is an advantage for Anthony to be available across the whole project, there appears to be adequate depth of experience to other non-Director team members to balance out this advantage and provide a no-preference result to this section.
It’s a difficult passage to comprehend on the first pass. What does “no-preference result” actually mean? Who are the “non-Director team members” with the “adequate depth of experience”? Hang on, now I get it: even though Anthony, the Director, is meant to be available for the whole project, we have other staff who are just as capable.
The key to clear communication is saying what you mean, and knowing how to achieve that. It’s about understanding your content and your audience. Organising your document into a common sense structure not only helps you, the writer, but also the reader.
Eradicating superfluous words and phrases helps with clarity and shortening sentences gives your audience a reasonable chance of making sense of what you are saying. We’ve all followed an author as they set out on a sentence and wondered five lines later what it was all about. Turning a long sentence into two or three can make a world of difference.
And finally, writing as you speak can be good in theory, but phrases like “It’s all good”, “Too easy” and “You know what?” don’t flow for the eye as well as they roll off the tongue. Oh, and unless you’re a teenager, you might want to think about abandoning the smiley face as well.
Writing, like presenting, is about confidence and there’s confidence in knowing what you’re talking or writing about.Andrew Daddo has been part of the Australian entertainment landscape for the past 25 years. He’s the author of over twenty best-selling books and writes regular columns in the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Golf Digest. He’s now helping corporate Australia realise it doesn’t have to be the challenge it often is and is lending his extensive presentation experience to the corporate world too. www.lighthousecc.com.au.