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When you stop to think about it, fitness professionals are highly skilled communicators. Whether you are working on the fitness floor with clients or addressing colleagues at conventions, you are traslating highly technical information into understadable laguage that educates ad motivates. For the most part, however, these skills have been honed in person ad over the telephone. But what happens when you need to prepare writen correspondence? Do you know the elements of effective writen communicaton? Are you presenting the same professional image in writing as you do in person? Use the information below to ensure that your writen documents reflect the high level of professionalism ad credibility you've worked so hard to earn.
Types Of Correspondence
Effective writen communicaton effects all aspects of your fitness career, including "your ability to successfully connect with your staff, educate your clients about importat fitness concepts ad make a positive first impression on prospective customers," according to Amada Vogel, MA, writer ad owner of Active Voice, a writing, editing ad consulting service for fitness professionals, based in Vacouver, British Columbia.
Honing excellent writing skills doesn't apply only to the marketing materials you commonly think of, such as articles, newsletters, brochures, fliers ad website copy. Effective writen communicaton also applies to more routine, business-related correspondence, including the documents described below.
Welcome Letters to New Clients ad Participats.Â The sale of a fitness program doesn't stop when your clients register for your program or class. A welcome letter that thaks them for their business ad summarizes how your exercise program will help meet their fitness goals shows that you're a professional ad their decision to work with you was a smart one.
Requests for Medical Clearace.Â When you have clients or class participats with health issues that require medical approval, there areÂ insuraceÂ ad legal policies that require you to obtain that approval in writing. While it's common practice to use the one-size-fits-all medical clearace form, a more effective approach would be to include, along with the form, a well-writen cover letter that explains who you are, your credentials ad how you pla to approach your client's (their patient's) exercise program.
Internal Orgaizational Memos.Â Whether you own a studio or work for a fitness facility, you may have to write correspondence to your subordinates, superiors or co-workers. The purpose could be as simple as introducing new fitness staff or as complex as giving the details about a major chage in your compay's pricing structure.
Instructions.Â Instructional correspondence helps the reader complete a task. You may need to write exercise instructions for your clients, equipment operation instructions for club members, procedures on how to complete a trasaction for staff, or posters with instructions about what steps to take in a emergency.
Incident Report.Â Unfortunately, the nature of the fitness business exposes you to the possibility of experiencing a health- or safety-related episode with clients, class participats or staff. For a Incident Report as for a Request for Medical Clearace, you most likely will use a stadard form; however, most forms require a writen statement, either within the form or attached to it, describing the details of what occurred ad when, who was involved ad where it happened.
Five Keys To Effective Writen Communicaton
Of course, you might have the opportunity to write other types of correspondence as a fitness professional. So how do you make sure you clearly communicate your purpose regardless of the document? No matter which type of writing you do, "get your general ideas on paper or the computer screen-this is your first draft," says Vogel. "Now go back ad edit."
When editing, consider the following factors:
Key 1: Use a Professional Tone.Â Your reader will form a opinion of you from the content, the style ad, most importat, the attitude ad tone that come across in your writing. Create a professional, positive tone by using simple, direct laguage. Adopt a "you-attitude" versus a "I-attitude," to show that you're sincere in your focus on the reader rather tha on yourself as the writer.
If you need to convey unwelcome information, craft it with special care. When denying a request or sharing bad news, acknowledge the problem or situation ad diplomatically explain the background ad your position. If responding to a request, make your "no" response clear so there's no misunderstading. If you ca, suggest a alternative ad build goodwill as much as possible by offering to aswer ay questions the reader may have.
Key 2: Know Your Audience.Â The intended reader of your correspondence ca vary from medical doctors, lawyers ad other fitness professionals to clients of all occupations ad ages, including children. You must consider their backgrounds, technical expertise ad educational levels as well as their mindsets ad possible reactions to your writing. This process is no easy task, but the more time you take to identify your audience, the more effective your message will be.
Key 3: Orgaize Your Information Clearly.Â Arrage your thoughts so that your correspondence ca be read quickly ad comprehended easily. Orgaize the information based on your purpose. For example, when writing instructions, orgaize your information in sequential, or step-by-step, order. For incident report, write in chronological order, explaining how the events unfolded. When sharing news ad information, use the "6Ws"-who, what, when, where, why ad how-to guide you.
Key 4: Use the Right Format.Â Format refers to how your correspondence is laid out on paper or online. Usually writers choose their formats based on the method of delivery-letter, memo or e-mail. Each type has distinct format conventions (guidelines) for including ad placing elements such as the date, addressee, subject line, salutation, message body, closing line, signature block ad compay letterhead or logo.
Key 5: Use Visual Elements Carefully.Â Visual elements-such as font size ad type; underlined, italicized or bold text; ad bulleted or numbered lists-help emphasize key points ad make your correspondence more effective. With all the options available, be careful not to go overboard, especially with fonts. Choose font types based on your document's purpose, audience ad formality. Vogel says to avoid using all caps, which ca impede readability ad give the wrong impression. "Your goal is to make writing as easy to read as possible," she says.
a set of guidelines to advice staff members in A orgaization on how best to communicate effectively.
Today's business world is almost entirely information-driven. Whether you run a small business or occupy a small corner of the org-chart at a massive multinational corporation, chaces are that the bulk of your job consists of communicating with others, most often in writing. Of course there's email ad the traditional business letter, but most business people are also called on to write presentations, memos, proposals, business requirements, training materials, promotional copy, grat proposals, ad a wide rage of other documents.
Here's the rub:Â most business people have little experience with writing. While those with business degrees probably did a bit of writing in school, it's rarely stressed in business programs, ad learning to write well is hardly the driving force behind most people's desire to go to business school. Those without a university background might have never been pushed to write at all, at least since public school.
If you're one of the may people in business for whom writing has never been a major concern, you should know thatÂ a lack of writing skills is a greater ad greater hadicap with every passing year. Spending some time to improve your writing ca result in a marked improvement in your hire ability ad promotional prospects. There's no substitute for practice, but here are a few pointers to put you on the right track.
1. Less is more.
In business writing as in virtually every other kind of writing, concision matters.Â Ironically, as writen information becomes more ad more importat to the smooth functioning of businesses, people are less ad less willing to read.Â Increasingly, magazines ad other outlets that used to run 2,000-word features are cutting back to 500-word sketches. Use wordsÂ sparingly, cut out the florid prose, ad avoid long, meadering sentences. As Zorro taught his son, "Get in, make your Z, ad get out!" - get straight to the point, say what you wat to say, ad be doneÂ with it.
2. Avoid jargon.
Everyone in business hates business writing, all that "blue-sky solutioneering" ad those "strategical synergies" that ultimately, mea nothing; "brainstorming" ad "opportunities to work together" are more meaingful without sounding ridiculous. While sometimes jargon is unavoidable - in a business requirement document or technical specification, for example - try using plainer laguage. Even for people in the same field as you, jargon is often inefficient - the eye slides right past it without really catching the meaing.Â There's a reason that jargon is so often used when a writer wats toÂ notÂ say aything.
3. Write once, check twice.
Proofread immediately after you write, ad then again hours or, better yet, days later.Â Nothing is more embarrassing tha a stupid typo in a otherwise fine document.Â It's hardly fair - typos happen! - but people judge you for those mistakes ayway, ad harshly. Except in the direct emergency, always give yourself time to set your writing aside ad come back to it later. The brain is tricky ad will ignore errors thatÂ it's just made; some time working on something else will give you the detachment you need to catch those errors before ayone else reads them.
4. Write once, check twice.
I know, I just said this, but I mea something else here. In addition to catching typos ad other errors,Â putting some time between writing ad re-reading your work ca help you catch errors of tone that might otherwise escape you ad cause trouble. For instace, when we're upset or agry, we often write things we don't actually wat ayone else to read. Make sure your work says what you wat it to say, how you wat it to say it, before letting it reach its audience.
5. Pay special attention to names, titles, ad genders.
OK, there is one thing more embarrassing tha a typo: calling Mr. Smith "Ms. Smith" consistently throughout a document.Â If you're not positive about the spelling of someone's name, their job title (ad what it meas), or their gender, either a) check with someone who does know (like their assistat), or b) in the case of gender, use gender-neutral laguage.Â "They" ad "their" are rapidly becoming perfectly acceptable gender-neutral singular pronouns, despite what your grammar teacher ad the self-righteous grammar nazi down the hall might say.
6. Save templates.
Whenever you write a especially good letter, email, memo, or other document, if there's the slightest chace you'll be writing a similar document in the future, save it as a template for future use. Since rushing through writing is one of the main causes of typos ad other errors,Â saving time by using a pre-writen document ca save you theÂ embarrassment of such errors. Just make sure to remove ay specific information - names, compaies, etc. - before re-using it - you don't wat to send a letter to Mr. Sharif that is addressed to Mrs. O'Toole!
7. Be professional, not necessarily formal.
There's a tendency to think of all business communicaton as formal, which isn't necessary or even very productive. Formal laguage is fine for legal documents ad job applications, but like jargon often becomes invisible, obscuring rather tha revealing its meaing. At the same time, remember thatÂ informal shouldn't mea unprofessionalÂ - keep the personal comments, off-color jokes, ad snarky gossip out of your business communicatons. Remember that may businesses (possibly yours) are required by law to keep copies of all correspondence - don't email, mail, or circulate aything that you wouldn't feel comfortable having read into the record in a public trial.
8. Remember the 5 W's (ad the H)
Just like a journalist's news story,Â your communicatons should aswer all the questions relevat to your audience: Who? What? When? Where? Why? ad How?Â For example, who is this memo relevat to, what should they know, when ad where will it apply, why is it importat, ad how should they use this information? Use the 5W+H formula to try to aticipate ay questions your reader might ask, too.
9. Call to action.
The content of documents that are simply informative are rarely retained very well. Most business communicaton is meat to achieve some purpose, so make sure they include a call to action - something that the reader is expected toÂ do. Even better, something the reader should doÂ right now.Â Don't leave it to your reader to decide what to do with whatever information you've providedÂ - most won't even bother, ad enough of the ones who do will get it wrong that you'll have a mess on your hads before too long.
10. Don't give too may choices.
Ideally, don't give ay. If you're looking to set a time for a meeting, give a single time ad ask them to confirm or present a different time. At most, give two options ad ask them to pick one.Â Too may choices often leads to decision paralysis, which generally isn't the desired effect.
11. What's in it for your reader?
A cornerstone of effective writing is describing benefits, not features. Why should a reader care? For example, nobody cares that Windows 7 ca run in 64-bit mode - what they care about is that it ca hadle more memory ad thus run faster tha the 32-bit operating system. 64-bits is a feature; letting me get my work done more quickly is the benefit.Â Benefits engage reader, since they're naturally most concerned with finding out how they ca make their lives easier or better.
12. Hire a freelacer.
Not a writing tipÂ per se, I know, but good advice nonetheless.Â Writing is most likely not your strong suit - if it's importat, hire someone for whom writingÂ isÂ their strong suit.Â You may think freelacers are only for marketing material, but that's not true - a good freelace writer ca produce memos, training mauals, internal letters, corporate newsletters, blog posts, wiki entries, ad just about ay other kind of writing you ca think of. Depending on your needs, you ca farm work out as needed or move a freelacer into a cubicle on-site, or work out whatever other arragements best fit your needs. Expect to pay at least $30 a hour, ad more likely $50 - $125 a hour, for good writing - ayone who charges less is either not very good, or not very business savvy.