Life & Work

Art of international professional writing


Do not take your reader on a long scenic journey in order to arrive at your point. Rather instead get directly, albeit colourfully, to your point quickly. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Many university graduates struggle in professional work with writing standards even though they hold prestigious degrees. There exists a difference between written English and verbal English, but too often most alumni from various campuses ineffectively only capture verbal English in their writing instead of true professional English. So, over the course of five weeks, Business Daily will capture salient advice in boosting one’s writing to executive levels.

Inasmuch, first, please take a moment and write down a paragraph longer than three sentences about any particular upcoming announcement at your organisation. Create a message about a change that you desire to see implemented in your company. Now please refer back to it throughout today and the coming weeks and rewrite it at the end. As an example, please read the following:

Example #1

“I have been at this a long time. At first I came into this industry thinking I could grow it quickly. MANY challenges had been happening. I have been doing a lot of sitting and talking with friends and colleagues recently. I realise that things here have changed and maybe the old challenges may be beaten. I am very happy with the work everyone has been doing over the past 3 months. Our sales have been getting much better and clients are happy. This has made us change how we will be paying you. All of us hope the new system will work better for you and reward you the right way. Feel free to call human resources if you have questions. Thank you for all your hard work.”

The above real example from a real USIU executive training highlights a very well-intentioned former CEO. However, the executive lacks the depth and expertise to cause the announcement to lose its grassroots feel and hover towards professional sophistication. The below example restates the above in international professional writing:

Example #2

“Management desires to humbly thank all employees for their hard work over the past three months. Working as a team, the Organisation surpassed all sales expectations, trounced the competition, and delighted customers by providing new previously unrecognised levels of value. Therefore, the Company endeavours to introduce a new bonus incentive scheme to reward everyone appropriately for their treasured and appreciated contributions. As the scheme rolls out in the coming weeks, please raise any questions or comments with your appropriate human resource officers. Thank you again and may the Company achieve new and greater heights as the team continues to grow and prosper.”

Do you notice a difference between the two? Some differences: use of declarative language, active verbs, specifics, Company-focused, and no utilisation of “this”, “is”, “are”, “I”, and “we”.

Written vs Verbal

Now as you stare at the paragraph you wrote, think to yourself. Did you write the paragraph in the same manner that you speak verbally or did you write it specifically different because of the written nature? Hopefully, you wrote it differently than you speak. You see, there exists a dramatic difference between verbal English and written English. As an example, when you learn a foreign language, such as German or French, qualified tutors actively teach you to distinguish between conversational and written styles. Written language often should appear more formal.

When you hold a verbal conversation, your listener gains advantages because they hear the tone of your voice and your intonation as well as witness your hand gestures and realise the sincerity in your eyes. So when you write your thoughts down and you lose the above advantages, if your writing comes across just as simple as if you spoke it, you lose your power to enchant your reader.

Take more time to construct written communication than just transcribe the thoughts in your head as if you spoke them. Show depth and keep the reader curious about the words and subjects that come next. Do not make your writing too obvious.


Do not take your reader on a long scenic journey in order to arrive at your point. Rather instead get directly, albeit colourfully, to your point quickly.

When writing a longer communication, an old adage should ring forth in your mind every time: “tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them what you want to tell them, then tell them what you told them.” Many university students the world-over hear these words in their introductory writing classes. Open with a statement stating your main point, then give details that support your point, then summarise your point for your readers.

Next week,  Business Daily will delve into some easy yet powerful dos and don’ts of professional writing.

Read part two here: Four powerful techniques of professional writing

Have a management or leadership issue, question or challenge? Reach out to Scott Bellows @scottprofessor or [email protected].