Paul Piscitelli - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

The importance of effective business writing

Paul Piscitelli - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Paul Piscitelli (BSBA ’16)

During my summer internship, I was responsible for delivering several memos to summarize research I had conducted. One of my first tasks was to summarize a current event that had the potential to impact our business. Following research, I delivered a one-page summary which was almost immediately emailed back to me. Why? The memo failed to (a) enable the reader to understand its purpose immediately and (b) state the implications for the business. Although the memo wasn’t “ripped up,” it likely came close!

Effective business writing enables a manager to understand the purpose, the issues and the implications immediately. Utilizing the writing pattern opening, agenda, body and closing will advance such efficiency, as well as increase your chances of receiving the sought-after full-time offer following your internship.

The opening of a memo specifies the purpose of your message, and more importantly, why it’s important to the reader. Other than for messages that deliver negative news, a direct approach is effective. State the main idea first, followed by the supporting evidence.

For example, you may begin with: “Since talking with you last week about the potential investment in Google, I’ve performed several analyses. Currently, I’m not convinced that it meets our investment criteria.”

Because such an opening states the climax at the beginning, it enables the reader to decide if he or she would like more information. 

The agenda creates a roadmap of the message, foreshadowing its main points. Given today’s fast-paced, “time is money” environment, an agenda enables the reader to further understand the essence of the message.

For example, “My analyses included a discounted cash flow model and technical analysis. Additionally, I’ve determined the decision’s potential impact on fund performance.”

This systematic approach saves time by highlighting the key supporting points, which enables the reader to quickly refer to the information deemed most relevant.

5W2H analysis questions - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

The body of a memo supports the main message, and it should logically follow the agenda. The body’s content is vital to your message and should abide by the following standards:

  • Clear: be organized
  • Complete: contain the “5W2H” details – who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much (see Figure 1)
  • Correct: contains no misleading information
  • Considerate: be cordial
  • Convincing: be persuasive

To foster efficiency, provide the most important information first. Additionally, graphs and charts enable the reader to visually interpret the impact of the message quickly. 

The closing of a memo should recommend certain actions that you want the reader to take. If the body contained a significant amount of information, the closing should also highlight the message’s key points and draw appropriate conclusions. Additionally, the closing should invite additional communication with the reader.

An example of an appropriate closing may be: “To avoid negatively impacting fund performance, I recommend not executing the Google trade. If you have any questions, please contact me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.”

Paul Tudor Jones, along with many other senior business leaders, values an effective business writer for several reasons. In addition to fostering efficiency in the time-conscious business environment, good writing demonstrates desired skills. An ability to analyze an issue or idea and distill it into its main points in a short and concise document demonstrates problem solving skills. Specifically, this ability proves that you understand the big picture and, therefore, can draw meaningful conclusions.

So, be sure to follow the above writing pattern the next time you write a memo. Doing so will significantly increase the likelihood that your message is understood immediately, as well as demonstrate highly valued skills.

Watch Paul Tudor Jones discuss why he rips up a poorly written memo.

By Paul Piscitelli (BSBA ’16)

This post has been republished with permission from the author. View the original post here.

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