10 Ways to Improve your Business Writing

Communicating ideas to others is the goal of all written communications. Communicating quickly and clearly is especially important in business writing. Whether you are writing a one-page email memo or a 100-page sales report, take time to think about the content and structure of your document before starting.

The Handbook of Technical Communication lists three keys to good writing: Purpose, Audience, and Scope. Decide what you want your readers to know, believe, or be able to do when they have finished reading your document. That's the purpose. Consider your audience. Learn certain key facts about your readers, such as educational level, demographic position, cultural background, and needs relative to the subject. Scope is how much the document will contain; where it will begin and end. For longer documents, like the 100-page sales report, create a written outline before starting. But for shorter work, like the one-page email memo, simply create a brief mental outline.

Business Letters include acceptance letters, acknowledgement letters, adjustment letters, application letters, sales letters, and other correspondence. Business letters are usually written in a formal tone formal unless it\'s a letter to a well-known client.

1. Stick with tried and true rules. Always use the standard business letter format. Use company letterhead. Put the "To" address in the upper left right under the letterhead.  Make sure the salutation is correct. Don't be embarrassed by addressing someone as Ms. when he's really a Mr.  Make the body text short, direct and to the point. Conclude with your name. Don't forget to sign and date your letter.

2. In sales/marketing letters write to sell and to motivate.  Use the formula A.I.D.A.: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Get the reader's attention with an interesting first sentence.  Arouse the reader's interest in the product by describing the benefits and features. Create desire for the product by describing how the benefits will make the reader's life easier.  Finally, make a call to action by providing a phone number, web site or some other way for the reader to take the next step in the sales process. You will find yourself writing two types of memorandums in business: memos that inform, and memos that persuade.  The tone and structure of memos can be less formal than letters but should still follow certain rules.  Paper memos are almost non-existent. Most of today's memos are circulated via email.

3. If you're writing a memo to inform, stick to the key facts.  Write in a "newspaper" style where you put the most important information in the first two sentences.  Maybe youe trying to describe a business meeting, a business trip or other conference.  Describe what happened and who you met in a chronological order. If youe describing an upcoming event, give your reader the Who, What, Why, When and How.

 4. For persuasive memos, you can make your case by using logic coupled with emotion. Maybe you are trying to convince your boss to buy lunch for the office once a week. Use facts about how inexpensive it is and how easy it is to deliver, coupled with the emotion of how well liked the boss will be and how good it will make him feel to do something nice for the office.  Reports can include feasibility reports, investigative reports, progress reports, trip reports, and trouble reports. Reports tend to be longer than memos or letters and written in a more formal style. They don't need to be frightening. If you have all the data gathered together, reports can be easy.

5. Present your data in a logical order: chronological, geographical, or by division/department. Stick with the order throughout the report.

6. Reports are mostly filled with boring statistics. Graphs, charts, numbers, and short paragraphs explaining the data. Make the report easier to read by breaking up the data into small bites. Use short sentences.  Spice up the report with color graphs and charts. People enjoy looking at other people so drop in color photographs of people whenever possible. You can't make numbers sexy but a new format can make your boring report bearable. You may be called upon to write articles at some point in your career. Articles can include literature reviews, newsletter articles, or trade journal articles.

7. When writing for professional journals check with the specific journal editor for style rules. Some professional journals, like the journal of American Psychological Association, maintain entire style manuals with rules on spelling, grammar, use of jargon and other style considerations. Find out what the rules are and stick to them. Professional journals require a formal writing style.\n\n8. Newsletter writing is a much more informal, light writing style. Write the way you talk. Include quotes from a number of co-workers. Everyone enjoys seeing his or her name in print.Use an objective tone when writing instructions or procedures. The focus is on helping the reader accomplish some task or understand a concept. The writing style is pragmatic or "useful".

9. For greatest clarity when writing a technical procedure, perform the procedure yourself if possible. You will be able to describe the most efficient methods, pitfalls and shortcuts. If you are not able to perform the procedure, interview someone who has.

10. Don't bother writing to impress. Use plain English. Some procedures cover dangerous machinery or methods and need to be conveyed in the most simple, concise terms possible. Use the word investigate instead of the phrase conduct an investigation. Use evaluate instead of perform an evaluation. This is no time to impress or to be unclear.  After you have written a document, save it and put it aside for a while if possible.  For short memos or letters, put them aside for a few hours. For longer documents let them sit overnight. Read your documents later to see if they still communicate effectively. You will find small errors and ways to make your writing better if you put it aside and visit it again later. Don't forget to run your grammar and spell checker. Be sure to re-write at least once or twice. I re-wrote parts of this article four times. Very few writers (maybe none!) can produce a masterpiece on the first attempt.


IRL to Scavange CART Assets

It looks like the IRL is ready to kill, then pick over the bones of CART. These quotes are from Yahoo UK.  
"While we are aware of the interest shown by other parties, OWRS is committed to assuming all the liabilities associated with the bankruptcy," said Open Wheel partner Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of the PK Racing team. "The IRL wants to bury, OWRS wants to build. That's the difference."
IRL spokesman Fred Nation said the intent behind IRL's bid, "is to unify open wheel racing, and on the platform of the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."
"The IRL's late-game involvement and its admission that it is not prepared to go road racing in 2004 has awakened years of mistrust and anger for the breach in open-wheel racing," said Paul Gentilozzi, owner of CART's Rocketsports Racing team and one of three principal partners of OWRS.
I think Gentilozzi wants CART as a bargaining chip to reunite CART with the IRL in 2005. That is, after he negotiates the best deal as far as money and the number of road courses that would be run.


SOTU Drinking Game

Political speeches and drinking large amounts of alcohol go hand in hand. For Bush supporters, tonight's State of the Union Address is cause for celebration ... and drinking. For Bush detractors, tonight's address is a reason for mourning ... and drinking.

Might as well make it fun! Here's the State of the Union Address Drinking Game

My favorite action: Every time the Prez says anything in Spanish, like Cualquier cosa en español you have to down a shot of Tequila or chug una cerveza, por favor.


Rally Monte Carlo Entry List

This list courtesy of Yahoo UK :

1 SOLBERG Petter - MILLS Philip Subaru Impreza WRC
2 HIRVONEN Mikko - LEHTINEN Jarmo Subaru Impreza WRC
3 LOEB Sébastien - ELENA Daniel Citroën Xsara WRC
4 SAINZ Carlos - MARTI Marc Citroën Xsara WRC
5 GRONHOLM Marcus - RAUTIAINEN Peugeot 307 WRC
6 LOIX Freddy - SMEETS Sven Peugeot 307 WRC
7 MARTIN Markko - PARK Michael Ford Focus WRC
8 DUVAL François - PREVOT Stéphane Ford Focus WRC
9 PANIZZI Gilles - PANIZZI Hervé Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
10 GALLI Gigi - D\'AMORE Guido Mitsubishi Lancer WRC04
11 WARMBOLD Antony - PRICE Gemma Ford Focus WRC02
31 BALDACCI Mirco - BERNACCHINI Giovanni Suzuki Ignis
32 AAVA Urmo - SIKK Kuldar Suzuki Ignis
33 WILKS Guy - PUGH Phil Suzuki Ignis
34 BROCCOLI Alessandro - AGNESE Giovanni Fiat Punto
35 KATAJAMAKI Kosti - ALANNE Timo Suzuki Ignis
36 MEEKE Kris - PATTERSON Chris Opel Corsa
37 CECCHETTINI Luca - X Renault Clio
38 FEGHALI Adbo - MATAR Joseph Ford Puma
39 BERNARDI Nicolas - X Renault Clio
40 CHICHERIT Guerlain - PERIN Michel Citroën Saxo
42 BIASION Mathieu - COQUARD Philippe Fiat Punto
43 LATVALA Jari-Matti - ANTTILA Miikka Ford Puma
44 SCORCIONI Alan - DADDOVERI Massimo Fiat Punto
45 ANDERSSON Per-Gunnar - ANDERSSON Jonas Suzuki Ignis
46 PONS Xavier - JULIA Oriol Fiat Punto
47 TABATON Luca - ROVEGNO Gisella Fiat Punto
48 RAUTENBACH Conrad - MARSH Peter Ford PUMA
49 BETTI Luca - X Peugeot 206 S1600
50 MARSHALL Oliver - PARRY Craig Renault Clio
51 COLS Larry - GODDE Filip Renault Clio
61 VOUILLOZ Nicolas - FIORINI David Peugeot 206 WRC
62 CAMPOS Miguel - R. SILVA Peugeot 206 WRC
63 BURRI Olivier - PATTHEY Jean-Philippe Subaru Impreza WRC
64 ERRANI Riccardo - CASADIO Stefano Skoda Octavia WRC
65 BENGUE Alexandre - X Peugeot 206 WRC
66 BOLAND Eamonn - REGAN Francis Subaru Impreza WRC
67 ROUX Philippe - CORTHAY Paul Ford Focus WRC
68 SZABO Gergely - KÖHLER Zoltan Skoda Octavia WRC
69 KRESTA Roman - TOMANEK Jan Hyundai Accent WRC
70 VALIMAKI Jussi - HONKANEN Jakke Hyundai Accent WRC
71 BERES Jozef - STARY Petr Hyundai Accent WRC
72 FIDIANI Moreno - BERGONZI M-Grazia Mitsubishi Lancer
73 BIJVELDS Peter - X Mitsubishi Lancer
74 ATKINSON Chris - ATKINSON Ben Suzuki Ignis (Forfait)
75 ROSSETTI Luca - D\'ESPOSITO Dario Citroën Saxo VTS
76 BOETTI Michel - X Citroën Saxo VTS


Racing News

'Here are a few racing news tidbits courtesy of Yahoo UK

First Dakar Stage Win For McRae  - Former world rally champion Colin McRae has chalked up his first Dakar win with a resounding victory in the 13th stage after a troubled week. The Scot, driving a Nissan pickup in his debut Dakar, reached the final checkpoint of the 478-km stage between the Malian capital Bamako and Ayoun el Atrous 25 minutes faster than Mitsubishi's defending champion Hiroshi Masuoka.

Barrichello Extends Contract with Ferrari  - Ferrari's Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello has signed a two-year extension to his contract with the world champions, ensuring his partnership with Michael Schumacher will continue at least until the end of the 2006 season. "Ferrari announces it has extended its agreement with the driver Rubens Barrichello to cover the 2005 and 2006 racing seasons," the team said in a statement on Wednesday.

Ferrari Looking At William's Nose  - A Ferrari spokesperson has revealed that the reigning World Champions are intending to have a look at the radical nose of the Williams FW26. And if it proves to give a team the edge, they may decide to copy it.  The new Williams’ FW26 chassis uses the twin-keel monocoque/suspension design. It features a shorter nose than its predecessor, the FW25, and has sweeping front wing supports that resemble tusks. The car has already demonstrated it’s pace, claiming P1 on four occasions at Jerez in the last seven days, despite it being the FW26’s maiden test session.


Coming of Age Day

Today is Monday January 12, 2004. It's Coming of Age day in Japan, a national holiday. Here is a description from the Japan Information Network.
The second Monday of January is Coming-of-Age Day, a national holiday to encourage those who have newly entered adulthood to become self-reliant members of society.

Municipal governments host special coming-of-age ceremonies for 20-year-olds, since an "adult" in Japan is legally defined as one who is 20 or over. They gain the right to vote on their twentieth birthday, and they\'re also allowed to smoke and drink. But along with these rights come new responsibilities as well, and so age 20 is a big turning point for the Japanese.

Coming-of-age ceremonies have been held since time immemorial in Japan. In the past boys marked their transition to adulthood when they were around 15, and girls celebrated their coming of age when they turned 13 or so. During the Edo period (1603-1868), boys had their forelocks cropped off, and girls had their teeth dyed black. It wasn't until 1876 that 20 became the legal age of adulthood.


Pending Merger

After reading Robin Miller's December 17 article, I'm convinced that the Open Wheel Racing Series (nee CART) is going to merge with the Indy Racing League.

 It won't happen in 2004 but probably in 2005. I think OWRS principal and Trans-Am owner Paul Gentilozzi is orchestrating it. Consider this quote from Miller's article:
"Look what's happened since the split," said Gentilozzi. "The Champ Car series was effectively competing for the leadership position in North America and the split diminished its ability to compete (with NASCAR). This used to be a successful business and it can be again if we're cost efficient and effective. We'll have bludgeoned each other by then and we'll be together," replied Gentilozzi. "We need to be and we all know that."
 If the two series merge, it will look a lot like CART did in 1995. They'll be racing on some ovals and some street courses. Tony George will have won in a business sense but the IRL will have been absorbed by the culture and passion of CART. The IRL will not have all American drivers and engines, it will not run only on ovals, and it certainly will not have kept team operating costs down to affordable levels. If the two series merge, I will probably become a grudging IRL fan I never had anything against the formation of the IRL.

I still think Tony George did a terrible thing when he took the Indy 500 away from CART because CART had the best, most competitive cars and drivers.  If the OWRS and the IRL merge, the fans, the drivers, and the racing teams will have been put through the ringer for the past seven years, all because of Tony George's ego.  Other than that, nothing will have changed.