The Secret to Business Writing: Crash Course Business – Soft Skills #3


Back before telegraphs, telephones, or the
Internet, the handwritten word was where it was at. Letters took weeks to arrive, and people wrote
pages and pages to one another in flowery language. They used to describe EVERYTHING. Today, we have more rapid communication, but
we’re still flooded with writing. Texts. Emails. Memos. We even cut out words with
emojis. With this constant flow of information, it’s
easy for people to get overwhelmed. So, how do you make sure that your email doesn’t
get lost in the morning sludge pile? That your memo gets its point across to the right
people? That your report tells the story you intended? I’m Evelyn from the Internets. And this
is Crash Course Business: Soft Skills. [Intro Music Plays] Writing plays a big part in building your
professional reputation. Whether it’s a quick message asking for
a sick day, a letter to a client, or a report that could fast-track you for a promotion,
you want to make sure that what you’ve written is persuasive. Before you type a single word, remember that
the content and structure of your writing all depends on who you’re writing for. This goes back to influence. You can’t expect
to convince anyone of anything if you don’t understand what their needs are. That’s why it’s important to conduct an
audience analysis. You want to tailor your main message to who
they are and how much they’re going to critique your work. If your audience is more involved, they’ll
need more evidence and logic. If your audience is less involved, they’ll respond more to
emotional appeal. Crafting a persuasive argument goes back to
the foundations of rhetoric. Logos, ethos, and pathos. We could do a whole episode on
these, but we don’t have that kind of time. So, boiled down, logos is an appeal to knowledge,
or facts. Ethos is an appeal to the character, authority,
or reputation of the speaker. And pathos is an appeal to emotion, or humanity. If The Doctor were trying to convince aliens
not to destroy Earth, she could use logos by explaining factual reasons why Earth isn’t
a threat, ethos by using the power of her name to inspire awe, and pathos by talking
about the human spirit and the power of kindness. By connecting to your audience, you draw them
into your message. So it’s important to figure out how involved they are to know which
elements you should use. And there are three questions you can ask
to figure it out. First, does your audience think you’re credible? This has to do with your reputation — remember
how trust is the foundation for business skills? It matters whether people think you know what
you’re talking about. If someone already trusts you, they’ll be
less involved and you won’t need to justify your message as much. Say you’re trying to convince a client to
reassess their social media marketing strategy. If you’re a fifth year associate with a
killer Instagram and YouTube channel, you’ll make a case much more easily than a summer
intern in the accounting department. Next, how important is the decision to them? If your message is going to directly impact
someone, or if there’s risk, they’ll probably be more involved. A suggestion about where your company should
open a second office would need way more detail than where your coworkers should go for happy
hour. [Gotta keep your enthusiasm for tex-mex casual and brief!] Finally, are they hostile or resistant to
what you’re saying? A hostile audience doesn’t mean they’re
out to get you. It just means that they may be more involved
and less receptive to your idea, because it might conflict with their current beliefs. Think about the trust you have with someone,
and frame your message around it. Like, say you were trying to convince two
roommates to let you get a cat. One likes cats, so you could straight-up tell
her how happy a cat would make both of you. But the other isn’t an animal person. So it
might make sense to describe problems a cat could help with, like, “I know you’ve been
worried about rats in our apartment building.” And you might need to address concerns, like,
“don’t worry, you wouldn’t have to take care of it, and I’d get one that’s hypoallergenic.” Considering your audience is clearly important
for the message, but it can also help you figure out the type of thing to write. Every workplace is a little different, so
we can’t tell you exactly what to expect. But generally, many offices use some messaging
app, like Slack, to communicate quickly. An email can be used to get across day-to-day
stuff or request further information. Memos are generally one page or less. And
they’re used to convey important or official information to internal sources — like
other departments. Letters are similar to memos, but they’re
used with external sources, like other companies or potential investors. Reports are generally thicker and usually
contain a summary page, discussion, and charts or graphs. [If you want to have a really wild
weekend, you can browse through hundreds of reports on pretty much any government website.] But no matter what you’re writing, you want
to give your audience the essential details. To see what I mean, let’s go to the Thought
Bubble. Imagine you were a freelance food blogger
writing about a new restaurant in town that claims to make a mean burger. You’d start by sharing when you went — last
Tuesday, on a quiet night out. You’d describe the cozy diner vibe with retro booths. You
might list the most mouthwatering menu items, including the special burger of the day and
creamy shake you ordered. And then you’d wrap it up with a solid four-star rating. You’re probably dealing with foodies searching
for up-and-coming hotspots, or fellow millennials looking for a cheap meal and a killer ‘gram.
So weaving a detailed narrative gives your audience everything they might want to know! But let’s say you were managing a small
chain restaurant and needed to let your boss know about a new competitor. That’s a different
story. Would you write up your elaborate personal
experience? No. General managers only spend anywhere from
10 to 25% of their day working alone at their desks. Which means they might not have time
to read all those details. In corporate writing, the name of the game
is: Efficiency. Efficiency. Efficiency. So… watch for redundancy. You can also try to answer the 5W’s and
the H. Who does this information affect? What is your main point? When does this information matter? Where should you pass it on? Why is it important? And How should you move forward? So, this new burger place is pretty important
news, but it’s more casual than official information. So maybe not a memo. You don’t need graphs of sauce ratios or
delivery speeds, so a report would be overkill. But you could write a concise email sharing
that a competing burger restaurant with an extensive menu opened one week ago. They pose
a threat because your repeat sales have been declining. And you recommend talking about
sending coupons in weekly mailers to increase business. Clear, concise writing ensures that your boss
has time to read it, and your effort doesn’t go to waste. Thanks, Thought Bubble! Writing directly is
often trickier than it sounds. Thankfully, there are a few easy things you can work on
to limit your word count, but not your impact. First, identify your argument. Your argument is your main point. What are
you trying to say or get people to do? If I wanted someone to invest in my cute cupcakery,
an argument might be that small cakes make people happy, and everyone deserves a little
more joy in their lives. You can try jotting down 2 or 3 of your key
points before you start writing to stay on track. That can also help you make sure that what
you’re sending has a purpose. No one wants to read an email that really has no point.
This is not a vent session, okay? Second, don’t bury your lede. If I’m trying to make some quick blueberry
muffins to start my day, I want that recipe in front
of me. Some of us do not have the time to read about your journey to find free-range
eggs and pick blueberries on a farm, Karen! So whether you’re writing a one-page memo
or a ten-page report, be sure to emphasize your key points up front. It will save your
readers valuable time. And in the business world, time is money. But again! Here’s the tricky thing about
this series. This advice isn’t one-size-fits-all. Remember when we mentioned how your audience
can be hostile? If what you’re saying might not be taken well, you might want to share
supporting facts before your main conclusion. So, if you were trying to convince zombies
to stop eating brains, you wouldn’t start off your letter by saying it’s bad for humans.
[They don’t care!] Instead, you could start by listing the benefits
of another food source, like pizza. It’s quick and delicious.
95% of surveyed zombies like pepperoni. And making pizza involves less time and risk
than attacking people. Then, you can end with your logical conclusion
that eating humans is, in fact, not worth the effort. Third, avoid uncertain language like ‘maybe,
‘I think,’ ‘in my opinion,’ ‘it seems like,’ or ‘it might be.’ Remember what we said about emotional influence:
confidence is key. Confidently explaining your point will make your business writing
more persuasive. You can also do this by using active voice.
Put your subject before your verb and limit your use of ‘to be’s’. Instead of saying, ‘A new dietary choice
of freshly prepared pizza will be preferred to human material,’ you would say ‘Zombies
prefer deliveries from Tony’s, over actually eating Tony.’ Fourth, what you write is always more important
than how you format, but it’s worth mentioning. You know in Star Wars movies, how they have
that super long wall of text at the beginning? It’s cool in theaters. Not the workplace. At some point, we’ve all seen long, bulky
paragraphs and thought, “Ugh. I have to read THAT?!” So use headers to divide your
writing into smaller, manageable chunks. And finally, check for typos. Proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation
show that you’re competent and can be trusted. Typos and grammatical errors don’t. Especially
if you mess up someone’s name. And don’t just rely on word processing software.
It doesn’t always catch common errors like they’re, there, and their. Plus, it can’t check for meaning. So a
sentence like “I read thorough our paste budget reports.” might get through, even
though it’s not coherent. So read your work at least twice! Even better,
give it to someone else to proofread. When checking for typos, it’s also important
to look for acronyms or initialisms. Just because your company uses something all the
time, it doesn’t mean everyone else understands it. Think about the number of times The Doctor
has explained the T.A.R.D.I.S. [Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Just like a deceptively
small .zip file, it’s bigger on the inside.] And now. W. C. E. F. T. [*pause*] That means We’ve Covered Everything For
Today. [See what I did there? Explaining acronyms? That’s why I’m the host.] We’ve talked about a lot of ways to make
sure your writing packs a punch. So, if you remember nothing else from this episode: Your audience is the key to what you write
and how you write it. Substance matters more than formatting. It
doesn’t matter how nice your work looks if it doesn’t make a point.
Double check your work for spelling, grammar, and miscommunications. Writing is just part of communication, though.
Next time, we’ll get into verbal communication to help you nail public speeches and morning
meetings, so you’re not just the person that brought doughnuts. [You’re the person
that brought doughnuts and made their point.] Crash Course Business is sponsored by Google and it’s made with the help of all these nice people and Thought Cafe is our amazing
animation team. Crash Course is a Complexly production. If
you wanna keep imagining the world complexly with us, you can check out some of our other
channels like The Art Assignment, where host Sarah Urist Green explores art and art history
through the lens of things happening today. Also, if you’d like to keep Crash Course
free for everybody, forever, you can support the series at Patreon; a crowdfunding platform
that allows you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for
making Crash Course possible with their continued support.

92 Replies to “The Secret to Business Writing: Crash Course Business – Soft Skills #3”

  1. One thing many people in the US have to learn when dealing with international associates is that not all cultures appreciate pleasant small talk or pleasantries at the beginning of business communications.

  2. Wow ! Thank you for this class. I'm going to business school right now and they are going to start with the same topic. This is really helpful. 🙏

  3. Most important thing I ever learned regarding business:

    If you have an important conversation, Slack chatter, or meeting, follow-up with an email summarizing things to all concerned parties. Especially when it comes to what you have done, what needs to be done that was agreed upon, issues that have come up, and any changes in schedule or scope. This gives an approximate date/time of the event, and is crucial to protecting yourself later if the topic gets revisited with office hearsay/politics added on.

    It also helps you with your peers, as no one likes doing meeting minutes. For the more cutthroat out there, it also lets you get first shot at defining the narrative following the event.

  4. A good book on this is “Style: Towards Clarity and Grace”. Especially for Engineers.

    There’s a free pdf online as of March 2019

  5. "Put your subjects before your verbs and limit your use of 'to be's".
    That's a good quick summary of active voice for beginners.

  6. As a non-native speaker new student who just start to study marketing, it's really helpful! Thanks! CrashCourse!

  7. Can an emotionally written book can it draw attention from the audiences?

    edit: if your done rechecking your written page, can you test it with your associate or friend if this makes sense?

  8. It's not helpful to argue about the importance of formatting versus content. They're both important; however, formatting is what the reader sees before reading any word. If your writing is poorly formatted, no one will read it.

  9. Ug! I simply cannot get over the cuteness of the new intro. It just looks and feels so realistic while being cute. Or maybe I'm weird. (That's probably it)

  10. This is mostly good advice, but point #3 is generally horrible advice (disastrous in some business sectors). Project confidence in your abilities, do not express confidence in statements that you are not actually confident in. Otherwise, sooner or later you'll either make a serious mistake or face someone who is more knowledgeable about a topic and your poor judgement (in expressing confidence in something not worthy of that confidence) will sour your relationships both with customers and colleagues.
    Being successful in business does not require being deceitful. Sometimes it helps, but it's not a necessity. Better decisions are available when the decision makers have the correct relevant facts.

  11. Another important business skill I hope this course covers is the benefits of Journaling. Which would be taking the time to write down conversations you had, success, failures, and lessons learned. Reviewing them months or years later, or in the event of an issue, will be very helpful. After all, do you remember the details of what you did 4 months ago? I know project managers that keep daily journals and review them regularly to check their development progress.

  12. something funny I experienced when watching this video:
    during the part where it talks about "How to Limit Word Count", point number 2 "don't bury the lede" in particular, I was so sure that lede was supposed to be spelled "lead", and thought to myself, "did they really just leave that in and nobody caught it even during post-production?…."
    Then during the part where it says "check for typos" I thought, "oh my goodness, did NOBODY check for typos in this case? I have to see whether 'lede' is a word or not and if it isn't, I'm gonna be super helpful by writing a YouTube comment pointing out that subtle spelling error."
    …Lo and behold, I discovered "bury the lede" is a correctly spelled phrase dating back to at least the 1970s, and I'm so glad I did my research before making a fool of myself and correcting a professional team of video-makers who do their jobs extremely well.

    TL;DR ~ a perceived typo taught me a little something extra besides the valuable information on writing for business that I came to this video for.

  13. I have so many coworkers who don't spellcheck their emails and chats and it drives me absolutely insane. Especially when they type "can" when they mean "can't" or "did" when they mean "didn't". It completely changes the meaning of what they said, and now I have to play detective and figure out what words were intentional and which were mistakes.

  14. Acronyms!: i use a lot of acronyms in my job. like, ~40% of the nouns i use at work are acronyms.
    to battle this, i edit the auto-correct options in Microsoft word, which is the word processor i use, to auto-correct things like 'eac' to 'Exchange Admin Center'.
    this way my clients, and coworkers alike dont have to look up what im talking about, and i dont have to write it out either.

    also, bulleted lists are great in tech industries. they go a step further than headers to break down sentences into digestible bytes. because reading is for English majors.

  15. I used to teach at a school where the principal would "memorialize" things, meaning "to write a memo about." XD

  16. You are my new fav human. You have a seamless and relaxed way about you that makes the information easy to remember. Thank you from a nearly 50 something looking for a healthy workplace. Thank you for all of the research that goes into these vids.

  17. I searched the best YouTube in Google search, and I'm lead here. Well, after watching one video,I agree. Very educational. I like it. Clean and precise.

  18. Seeing the Who/What/When/Where/Why/How reminded me of my old boss, he was always on about "The 'Ws' and 'Cs.'" and even had a poster printed up with them on the back wall. The Ws were of course what was mentioned, the Cs were Consistency and Clarity. I studied how everyone else was writing e-mails and the daily briefings that go out to the company's board members and got frequent compliments on my formal writing, but every time someone else would mess something up we'd all get a 15+ minute lecture on the Ws and Cs when he got into the office haha.

    I also really like the analogies in this series! I know this isn't the most recent video in the series, but I've had them randomly come up from Youtube's recommendation engine and I've enjoyed every one of them that I've watched!

  19. Twitter is important for honing skills succinctly. Communication skills require practice. Twitter is important for practice.

  20. Business writing is a
    tactful job and can be accomplished by accessing the services by Creative
    Savants at 00971525441428.

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