How to Assign a Business Writing Project
Assigning a writing project to another person is different from making a simple request like, “Get me this by Friday.” You are asking the other person to engage intellectually and emotionally. It’s not the same as asking a carpenter to cut lengths of wood or a manufacturer to produce a set quantity of widgets by a certain time. When asking another person to write for you:
v Focus the writer’s attention on the ultimate purpose of the document.
A training participant once turned in a writing sample that concerned a shipper’s error. Some of the company’s merchandise had been damaged in transit and the cost to the company was $532.55. The writer informed the shipper of the loss, and closed with “I look forward to resolving this matter with you.” What was the problem? He never asked for the money. Odds are, he never got it either.
If the manager had instructed, “Write to them about the damaged merchandise,” he might have received this vague result. However, if she had said, “Write to them and request reimbursement for the materials they damaged,” the result would have been better. The fundamental purpose of the letter was to request money, not to inform them of the loss.
v Urge him to consider the reader.
Every piece of writing needs to be tuned to WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” Take a moment with the writer to focus on the “hot buttons” of the reader. In the shipping example, perhaps the writer would allude to the possibility of losing the account if the reimbursement was not paid.
v Remind him of the main point.
How often have you received documents that left you scratching your head, wondering what the point was supposed to be? The problem of not writing to the point is magnified when you are instructing someone else to do the writing. It only takes a minute to clarify the fundamental point you want the writer to get across.
The few minutes that you take in confirming the purpose, targeting the reader, and focusing on the main point of the document will pay off richly. You are less likely to have to rewrite or edit the document your colleague or subordinate writes. And the final result will far surpass what it would have been if you had just said, “Write to them about the stuff that broke.”
The material in this Writamin is drawn from the Worktalk Core Business Writing training. The training covers all aspects of the writing process, including assigning writing projects and editing for others.
© 2010 Elizabeth Danziger