5_tips_to_instantly_improve_your_writing

15 Jun 5 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing

Language can convey or betray intentions that the user may not even be aware of.

Consider the following real life example:

Economists leveraged data from a US-based peer to peer lending site, to determine the likelihood of whether a borrower would pay back a loan or not. On the site, potential borrowers write up a brief as to why they need a loan and why they are likely to pay back. Lenders then review this and make a decision.

As it turns out, the language that borrowers use is a strong predictor of their probability to repay the loan, even when the data is controlled for other relevant factors such as credit ratings and income.

Here are 9 commonly used phrases when applying for a loan. Check them out and see if you can identify the 5 phrases that suggest intention of repaying the loan:

  • will pay
  • graduate
  • promise
  • thank you
  • debt-free
  • minimum payment
  • after-tax
  • lower interest rate
  • hospital

 

One would hope that a polite appeal for financial help with hospital bills would come from someone most likely to pay back their loan. However, this is not the case – the data shows that an appeal of this kind is coming from an individual who is more likely to default on their loan than others.

Terms used in loan applications by people most likely to repay the loan:

  • debt-free
  • lower interest rate
  • after-tax
  • minimum payment
  • graduate

 

Terms used in loan applications by people most likely to default on the loan:

  • promise
  • will pay
  • thank you
  • hospital

 

Ethical implications aside, there is a clear distinction in the kind of words used by those that are more, and those that are less, likely to default on their loan. Phrases such as “lower interest rate” suggest financial sophistication, and hence, correlate with the kind of behaviour that lenders are looking for. Unfortunately making promises and appealing to one’s kind nature is an indicator that the borrower is likely to default.

The insights from this study underscore the importance of ensuring the right kind of exchange for your business. One of the most cost effective ways to do this is through impactful communication. From marketing, to when teams interact with customers or clients, the language they use can both strengthen and highlight the value your of your organisation, or shake confidence in your offering.

Here are 5 of the most impactful things you can apply right now to build reader’s confidence in your writing.

1 – Avoid writing too much.

Exactly like listening to a nervous rambler, long emails are often interpreted the same way. Proofread and mercilessly edit the superfluous.

5 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing

2 – Stay away from assumptions, no matter how well-intentioned:

“I’m sure you’re busy…”

“In your position I’m sure you don’t have much time…”

These generalities trivialise your position. If you are making assumptions at this stage, why would a prospect or potential client have any reason to think you’ll be more thorough down the line?

3 – Avoid using the word ‘just’.

In speech it can just slip out, but when immortalized in cold unfeeling text, it undermines messages. If you’re ‘just’ messaging to check, the suggestion is that it’s not important. If your request is for them to ‘just’ print and bring the report along, it doesn’t make the request seem small, it is frustrated.

5 Tips to Instantly Improve Your Writing

4 – Never use apologies as openings.

“Sorry to bother you”, “I hope I’m not troubling you..”, this kind of diminutions indicates a lack of faith in the reason that you’re reaching out. You’re sure about the reason you’re mailing otherwise you wouldn’t be wasting either of your time… Right?

5 – What’s with capitalising the first letters of a sign off i.e. “Kind Regards” ?

It’s grammatically incorrect and makes no sense. While we’re at it, any sign offs stuck in the auto signature are platitudes that extend no meaningful regards. Sometimes your regards are kind, other times warm, or best. Switch it up.


Want more tips on how to improve communication skills within your work team? Get in touch with us.

About the author: Developing language to instill confidence in service or powerful language for diplomacy, Mark Abi-Aad has helped hundreds of organisations across the private and public sector improve their communication.

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