Business writing simplified

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Business writing simplified

In 2006, when Khaled Mohamed Al Maskari was working in the human resources department of an oil and gas company in career and training development, he noticed that fresh graduates lack the ability to speak and write properly in English.

By Olivia Olarte

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Published: Sat 26 Nov 2011, 11:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:03 AM

At this time, many of his colleagues have started asking his help in writing their business correspondence and personal e-mails. Some also asked his assistance in writing various requests, including salary increment and a letter applying for medical treatment abroad.

“So I started a template to guide them,” the Emirati said. This was when the idea occurred to him. Why not write a book on business communication?

But it was not that easy, as he soon found out.

To begin with, he sought advice from a university professor who told him that with many books already written about the subject, his needs to be unique and that his book has something new to add.

“So I started reading many books. I bought books from the US, Canada, Malaysia, online. I have maybe more than 50 business writing books and I know them all by heart,” Al Maskari related.

He started writing in 2007, drawing samples from other people and company’s business letters and documents which were either received or sent. Excerpts of which can be found on the book.

Two years of painstaking work resulted in A Practical Guide to Business Writing or tips on how to write business letters and memoranda in a simple, clear and concise manner, complete with templates that are easy to understand and follow.

In the 138-page book, Al Maskari pointed out common writing errors and showed how best to improve them. He also suggested some useful business phrases that are used in day-to-day business correspondence.

For business e-mails, Al Maskari demonstrated several e-mail techniques, including how to write a clear subject line, the use of ‘cc’ button, out-of-office assistance, attachment, spell check and the importance of clearly identifying yourself.

And for personal business correspondence, Al Maskari enclosed templates that are useful for any employee requesting to go on a course, leave, for salary increase, transfer and resignation letter, as well as, congratulation and appreciation letters that senior management writes to employees.

“It is so simple and user friendly and can be used by anybody, from receptionist up to management level. This book is applied to all (and) is practical. Every single step I gave on this book has examples,” the author described.

But getting the book to be published was not that easy. By the time he finished writing it, the financial crisis happened and he received no support in getting his work published.

Undaunted, he hired his own team to design, edit and promote his book, spending over Dh50,000 to get the book out in the market. Of the 2,000 copies published last year, over a thousand were sold.

For its compact size, Al Maskari said he wants it to be light in order to encourage young people to carry it or be able to fit it in their bags

“Some companies are now asking me why don’t you do training? Maybe I will do next year. Book sale is good but when I do training, people will realise how valuable this book is,” he said.

He is now currently in talks with a publishing house in Dubai to publish more copies of his book, which is gaining recognition not only in the UAE and the Gulf region but also in the US, Canada and 32 countries in Europe through online promotion.

And for the author, Al Maskari was awarded this month the “Best Written Book by an Emirati Author of the year 2011” by the Sharjah International Book Fair.

The book is the first of its kind in the Middle East region. It is written by an Arab for the Arabs and those whose English is not their first language.

As an Arab, Al Maskari understood that reading is not part of the culture here. “They don’t read and they want something simple. This is the simplest I can make out of the 50 books I read. So this is like a gift for any employee who wants to improve his or her writing style. This is important in our area,” he stated.

And for his next project?

Al Maskari said he plans to write a 40-page booklet on the practical guide to CV writing.

“I will give tips on what type of CV’s employees here are looking,” he said with head already brimming with ideas.

12 tips to develop an effective business writing style according to Khaled Al Maskari:

1. Keep your purpose, readers and content in mind

2. Use short sentences

3. Use positive language

4. Use linking words

5. Use simple and familiar words

6. Use passive voice for specific reasons

7. Use bullet and numbers lists correctly

8. Use tables and charts effectively

9. Use impersonal style when expressing opinions

10. Avoid outdated expressions

11. Avoid repetition

12. Avoid turning verbs into noun

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