Whether you’re analyzing a lengthy report for management, finalizing the year-end statements or just shooting off a quick email to your team, having effective communication in writing is essential to succeeding in any accounting or finance career. In order for others to understand your message, your words must be clear, concise and free of error.
As accounting and finance professionals know, your reports are usually text-heavy and filled with multiple tables of data. These documents cannot be colored with typos. Otherwise, it leaves the reader confused and questioning your value and credibility.
And no one in any profession wants that.
Now, we know that business writing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. However, like most business skills, it only takes time and practice before you can improve yourself and become a communications pro. That’s why I thought it would be beneficial to list 5 Steps for an Accounting or Finance Professional to Become a Written-Communications Pro, below!
1. Understand Your Writing Purpose
What is your intended goal when sending this message? Who are you writing to? What actions should be taken after reading your message? These are all important questions to consider before you begin writing out any form of business communication. The rule of thumb, when producing written communication, is to make sure you understand your purpose first. Otherwise, how will anyone else understand?
Take your time and answer all of those little questions before you begin writing. Through this, you will be more prepared on the direction of your writing and have some clarity on your purpose.
2. Outline and Organize
Once you understand your purpose, it’s time to organize your thoughts. The first step is to write out your ideas and points in logical order. This particularly helps when writing out a longer message, but overall it helps you stay organized and focused. After your introduction, main points and conclusion are in line, it will be easier to add other statistics, quotes and supporting details.
3. Tune Your Tone
While segmenting and filling in proper content, you will also need to determine the tone of your writing. A tone can range from friendly to formal, and should depend on your audience. When sending a quick email to a team member, the tone can be pretty casual. However, if you’re presenting various research points and reports to a manager, may need to be more in-depth and formal. It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of your audiences will be finance-savvy people, and therefore, they may resonate with a more simplified tone when you’re explaining accounting-related conversations.
4. [Delete] Buffers
It’s easy to over-write and run into clichés when it comes to business communication. In fact, we barely have to put thought into writing clichés because they usually just come to us. But try your best not to rely on any unnecessary text that may hinder you from making your point clearly. Some individuals intentionally add filler words to their writing because they believe it makes the message sound more professional, but this is FALSE! Clichés such as, “Reinvent the wheel…” “That’s a no-brainer…” and “hit the ground running…” typically don’t enhance a message or proposal, and should be left out of your writing.
Additionally, industry jargon or “internal speak” can decrease the value of your writing if you use it too much or send it to the wrong people. As mentioned above, not everyone you speak with understands accounting or finance lingo, and may be thrown off when you mention “variance analysis” or EBITDA – so be mindful of your language.
5. Proof and Review
When it’s time to review and double-check your writing, it’s easy to rely on spellcheck and move on. However, there are so many different types of errors that can appear in your message that spellcheck doesn’t recognize. Reread it over yourself and even have a second set of eyes review and proofread your writing, so that way you get a better understanding of the consistency of tone, context and clarity.
Do you have any other steps for becoming a written-communications pro? Comment below!