Why you should consider your audience when writing for professional purposes and how to do it

Business writing can be quite daunting. Are you responsible for delivering quotes, bids or proposals? What these types of documents have in common is that they are persuasion tools and are written with the intent of getting things done. As the main objective of such documents is to attract new clients or to raise funds, they should not just be informative.

Quotes and proposals are persuasion tools.

Writing such documents can be challenging, especially if you must do it in a foreign language, e.g. in English. Aspects to consider are style, vocabulary, text structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Writers with a mother tongue that is not English should be aware that aspects of language differ between native languages when writing in English. Examples of such differences are word choice and language use, which includes grammar. An example of a grammar topic is word order. Research has shown differences between languages belonging to different language families regarding this topic. So, awareness of such variation is key when choosing which language to use and how to use it. Writing an excellent persuasive document increases your chances of striking a deal with the reader, who is a new client or stakeholder.

As English is used as a lingua franca in business, non-standard variants of English are expected to be encountered. However, this may cause problems, especially in cases in which parties only consider what is relevant for them as opposed to what is relevant for their audience. As a result, problems may include a mismatch in expectations or the occurrence of breakdown in communication. In business writing, where communication is one-sided and asynchronous, I would recommend choosing standard English. Chances of you being in the same room with the client as s/he is reading your document are rather slim. So, writing a document in standard-English is especially relevant when the client is based in an English-speaking country.

In a business-to-business or corporate context, a reader of such documents usually is a client. As writers usually only get one chance to make a good impression on the client, this should go well. What’s more, you also must make sure to achieve your aim (i.e. what) and objectives (i.e. how) to be able to obtain desirable results. So, it is important to consider your audience while writing such documents.

Readers of such documents would like to see their initial question answered, their style mirrored, but also have expectations in terms of content and style.

Readers of such documents would like to see their initial question answered, their style mirrored, but also have expectations in terms of content and style.  Readers of such documents also have their own expectations. They would like to see their initial question answered, their style mirrored, but also have expectations in terms of content and style. Consequently, having written an excellent persuasive document increases your chances of striking a deal with the reader, who is a new client or stakeholder. So, make sure to consider the expectations of your audience!

About the author. Léonieke Ariaans is the founder of LSA LINGUA, which is a language and communication training and consulting agency. She develops tailor-made services for individual clients, but also for businesses and academic language centres.

The original article was published on April 19, 2019, on LinkedIn. Find it here.

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