|Writing professional business documents in English
Mike Druttman, Copywriter
If you need to conduct your business affairs in English but your mother tongue is not English, this is for you. Maybe you’re an exporter or you deal with suppliers or customers in English-speaking countries. Whatever your situation, you'll be more successful in penetrating these markets by communicating well in written English at all levels.
You always use a hierarchy of communications tools. The most important, of course, is you - being at Meetings and communicating directly with your target audience. For this you don’t need perfect English and you can often achieve great things just by the force of your personality and presentation. However, if you can ‘prepare the way’ before your meeting (by phone or personally) with the help of other communication tools, this gives you tremendous added value.
These days the Web Site is presented as been the ideal tool to satisfy most communication needs. You just load it up with all the interesting information you have - and away you go! There are many things to say about what’s needed to have an effective web site (that’s the subject of other articles). What I can summarize, at this point, is that a good website required a lot of careful though and creativity. Above all, you need to look at things from the viewpoint of the potential reader and arrange your information accordingly.
The traditional form of presentation, the printed Brochure, is still an important tool. Many businesses try to save costs by simply producing a PDF version of their literature, which they put on their web site. However a well-designed and written hard-copy brochure that is printed and posted (snail-mailed) to a select target audience has great value. It can be picked up and studied instantly, without searching for a URL or a file. It has an easy perspective, and can be browsed from the front or back, over various page spreads. So it’s a tool that should not be underestimated.
Despite all the other communications tools around, it is the Business Documents, in all their variations, that provide the strong foundations for most business activity. I am talking about proposals, business plans, e-mailers, press releases, articles and white papers. These are the ‘building blocks’ of a company’s confident presentation of its business assets and market advantages. It is these elements that tend to build the greatest credibility before or after meetings. They also provide much of the material for the more ‘designed’ pieces like web sites or brochures. So they should be prepared in the most professional way possible. Let’s examine each of these items in turn.
Proposals - Preparing and delivering your points in a concise and convincing way, with a logical flow of information, combines methodology and inspiration. If you’re skilled at writing proposals yourself, fine. Otherwise, why not get the help of an expert communicator, who can edit and improve?
Business Plans - These are generally large documents with many chapters that go through innumerable revisions. An essential point here is to stay focused on what readers want to know and give them the information in easily-digestible ‘chunks’. Checking for consistency of information is also very important (don’t claim $60 million sales in one place and $70 million in another).
E-mailers - In our ‘instant communication’ world, the e-mail is both a blessing and a curse. It delivers the message in seconds, but it can also be forgotten in seconds - or missed altogether. You need to make a strong first impression and also exploit the ability to add hyperlinks. For the longer and more important mails, a professional English business writer can add great refinement.
Press Releases - There’s a strict formula to good press release writing, but unfortunately it’s often ignored. The result is a communication that goes nowhere and influences nobody, least of all skeptical journalists. If you want a press release to work right, you have to follow the rules.
Articles - Being able to present your ideas, concepts and vision to the broader world is an excellent way to gain attention. Often, a well-argued article will inspire the reader to contact the author for more information (as I hope you’ll do with me). There’s ALWAYS an interesting angle to explore - if you looking for it hard enough!
White Papers - Technical and marketing information about a product or system is often packaged as a ‘White Paper’ (a detailed study document) to show a comprehensive and serious approach coming from a market leader. It shares a similar approach to a Business Plan, in the sense of needing to be very professionally organized and written.
Having good, professional English will pay off. When you build a good collection of professionally-written business documents in English, you’re giving your potential customers and business partners all the right reasons to contact you. The confidence of relying on good back-up material also enhances your personal meetings. Finally, you can use all this new material to upgrade the communications tools that you produce in your mother tongue.
About the author
Mike Druttman is a senior copywriter with great experience in Business Writing and Marketing Communications. He is still fascinated by the power of words and the voyage of discovery that accompanies each new client project. He’s based in Israel. His website is www.futureweb.ws