Generally speaking, most geeks would rather have a root canal than craft a business document, whether it’s a report, presentation, speech, or even an email that, by necessity, must contain more than 10 words. Okay, perhaps a root canal is worse than all of the above. But you get the basic idea.
However, competent writing ability must be part of every geek’s toolkit, or else they are unlikely to achieve their career potential. To avoid that cruel and unfair fate, here are four business writing commandments that geeks can rely on to get their message across clearly and effectively:
Commandment #1: Thou Shalt Have a Focus
Business communication is not creative writing. The goal isn’t to illustrate a principle, resolve a moral or ethical dilemma, or establish some other worthy literary objective. The goal of business writing is to convey specific information, which could include ideas, facts, points, and so on. Geeks need to clearly know what they need to say before they start writing.
Commandment #2: Thou Shalt Know thy Audience
One of the biggest mistakes in all of business communication — and certainly not limited to geek writers — is failing to understand that not all audiences are the same. For example, there is a categorical difference trying to connect with senior citizens who aren’t technically savvy, and developers who can write code in their sleep (and probably sometimes do). Similarly, writing for executives is not the same as writing for end users. The former typically want to know the key themes and grasp the big picture. The latter often need to know details on how to solve a problem, use a feature, complete a process, and so on.
Commandment 3#: Thou Shalt Use Structural Elements
Structural elements are things like headings, sub-headings, lists, and so on. These are a geek’s best friends when it comes to business writing, because they help “chunk” a piece of communication into smaller, more easily manageable sections. Using structural elements also prevents crafting a scary wall of text (which nobody will read unless they absolutely have to), or on the other end of the spectrum, sending something out so sparse and minimal that it is difficult — if not impossible — to comprehend.
Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Re-Read and Edit Before Publishing
Last but certainly not least, geeks should make sure they re-read and edit their documents before they distribute them online, offline or both — and this is prudent advice whether they have just completed a 1000-word synopsis for an awesome new game, or have drafted 15 words of copy for vehicle wrap from the Landmark Sign Company. It’s ideal to have a break of at least a few hours between finishing a draft and editing it, since the fresh perspective can reveal gaps. Or better yet, have a colleague with a flair for business writing take a look at it, or shell out a few bucks and get a professional editor (they are easy to find online).
The Bottom Line
Geeks don’t have to worry about turning into novelists — unless of course, that is something on their dream board (look out George R. R. Martin!). But they should know how to craft everything from emails to presentations, so that they can get their message across, and achieve both professional success and personal satisfaction!