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Archive for the “Business Writing” Category

MBA programs are changing. Programs are continually updating themselves and working to make themselves more viable and popular in a society tangled up in student loan debt. Accredited MBA courses have gone completely digital as distance learning becomes more of a popular option for those who decide to continue their education while still working. Corporate Social Responsibility has infiltrated an industry once driven completely by metrics and increasing profits. However, many business students, especially MBAs, lag behind in one area: writing. In many business programs, it is possible to take entire classes without submitting one piece of writing. Though the bulk of communication in business happens numerically, being able to effectively communicate in other ways is the difference between success and failure, especially for entrepreneurs. As technology progresses, investors and associates will require more frequent updates in language they can understand and without help, many will find they are not up to par.

There’s an art to business writing, an art that begins with good writing.

I was caught by an article on March 3, 2011 in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Students Struggle For Words” (Diana Middleton, page B8). It documents the growing complaints by employers of the inadequate writing skills on the part of newly minted MBAs. Anecdotal evidence includes complaints about business school graduates rambling, using pretentiously technical language, or careless and overly-casual emails.

There is some hard evidence to back up these complaints. Ms. Middleton cites evidence from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the Graduate Management Admissions Test. GMAT essay scores have fallen from 4.7 out of 6 to 4.4 in the last four years. Or take Sharon Washington, executive director of the National Writing Project in Berkeley, says our high schools and undergraduate programs have de-emphasized writing and constant digital communication has eroded writing skills (LOL, WTF, OMG, BRB, etc.)

Arthur Levitt, former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bloomberg contributor, has been on a jihad to bring plain English back to business.  He says much business writing is incomprehensible. “It lacks color and nuance, and it’s not terribly interesting to read.

There is one quality I find essential in written communication with real decision makers at corporations. That quality is simplicity.

Executive face time has immense value. My firm, Corporate Rain International, only does one thing which is to create serious introductions for our clients with strategic corporate leaders. I strongly believe that, short of a personal introduction, the best way to initially reach out to corporate decision makers is a snail mail letter of utter simplicity. Ideally this letter on your best stationary should be able to be scanned in four seconds by a busy executive and be focused on ROI. Prolixity is to be avoided at all cost.

A written letter shows respect, personal seriousness, and class. While simplicity is the byword of the introductory letter, that does not mean you should limit the use of exact vocabulary. Don’t dumb it down. High level executives are usually educated, sophisticated people who respect the subtle and gradated use of language. However, the primary point of business writing is to simply get to the point with grace and exactitude. (For more on this scroll back to Dec. 7, 2010 Letters and Executive Sales.)

And perhaps most important of all is to actually have something of worth and originality to communicate in the first place. As Sholem Asch writes, “Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.” (New York Herald Tribune, 11/6/55)

Thanks, Sholem.

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