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Business Writing Skills I: What Do You Want To Say?

Many web entrepreneurs are unfamiliar with business writing. In
truth, concise writing will build your business because you will
better connect with customers and prospects. In this five-part
series, the author will teach you how to make your web
communications, and all business correspondence, clearer,
understandable, and more direct.

Business Writing Skills I: What Do You Want to Say? By Linda
Elizabeth Alexander

Whether you hate writing or love it, it always helps to plan
what you want to say. One method that has always helped me is
the rhetorical square -- a mnemonic device designed to help you
figure out what to say before you say it. I've seen other words
used, but the one I remember best is "P.A.W.S."

Paws stands for "purpose, audience, writer, subject." P.A.W.S.
is most helpful when establishing the goals of the piece you are
writing and can be as formal and lengthy or informal and brief
as you like. Ask yourself these questions the next time you sit
down to write.

Purpose. What do you want to accomplish through your writing?
Every composition has its purpose, even it it's just to finish
an assignment. For example, you may write a letter to convey
information, to sell something, or to say hi to an old friend.
You might write a brochure to inform customers of a new product,
explain your company's mission to them, or to serve as an
advertisement for your services.

Audience. The most important thing you need to know in order to
communicate clearly through writing is whom you are writing for.
Who will read your writing? Your mother? Your client base? Your
boss? Every audience has a different level of experience and
education. For example, when writing a report to your boss, you
may share company jargon that the average Joe doesn't understand
- because the average Joe won't be reading the report.
Similarly, you will communicate differently to your employees
and your customers.

Writer. Third, take into consideration the persona you will
assume when writing the piece. Think about the tone you want to
use and the image you want to present to your audience. From
what perspective are you writing? What impression do you want to
give your readers? For example, if you get a new job, you will
want to announce it to your friends, your clients - and your
current supervisor. You wouldn't think of using the same tone in
all three letters, would you? You might sound enthusiastic and
informal with your friends and enthusiastic and polite with your
clients. Depending on your relationship with your current
supervisor, you will probably be official and reticent with her
or him.

Subject (or message). How should you say it? The length or
purpose of the piece lends itself to your subject. It's very
hard to fit a full-length board report on a post card; at the
same time, you wouldn't want to write a memo about your travels
in the jungle during your summer vacation. Note that this the
same as your purpose: your subject or message is the content
itself; ask yourself what the piece is about and decide what is
the most appropriate format for it to take.

Good writers routinely analyze the four elements of PAWS. Using
it to prepare your writing, whether it's a personal email,
formal business report, or your best selling novel, will improve
your writing and get your argument across clearly.

About the Author

Linda Elizabeth Alexander is a business writer and marketing
consultant based in Longmont, Colorado, USA. Improve your
writing skills at work! Subscribe to her FREE ezine. Write to
the Point at or visit

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