In the musical “Oliver!” The Artful Dodger sings, “I’d do anything…anything for you” to Nancy. Well in business – scratch that – in life it would be great to have someone who would do anything for you. But to be more realistic about beneficial wishes, we may have to settle for a book that shows us how to write anything.
Writing is essential in finding the proper tone that makes messages meaningful. Business leaders are always setting a tone in every message. If you feel your writing tone needs fresh eyes, read the book How To Write Anything  by Laura Brown.
This book is multipurpose and consequently pretty large – 581 pages all in. The opening chapters and sections account for the digital age. Section II is dedicated to it. But many of the pages show examples, complete with what-to-dos and what not to do.
The topics cover the basics of common sense, but they are phrased so that ideas resonate for how to balance heart felt thoughts and appropriate courtesy. Here’s an example of the framework shared. The choice of writing an email as a way to hide behind the words:
“Another way we hide behind our writing is through the “e-mail tag” we sometimes engage in at work. Have you ever felt such a rush that you’ve fired off an email simply to get a particular issue out of your inbox and into someone else’s? When you do this, you may look like you’re being productive…but are you really moving things closer to resolution? Usually not. If you have an ongoing round of email communication that’s getting you no closer to resolving the issue at hand, you might be better off picking up the phone and sorting it all out.”
Given that I have a browser in my face everyday, combined with a developer’s mindset to iterate quickly on a project, I can appreciate Brown’s scenario. I liked the way Brown highlighted a detail that can creep into one’s lifestyle and impact how one communicates. That made the next quote connect with me well:
“Ninety nice times out of one hundred, you can successfully make the decision about talking versus writing if you follow these two simple steps: (1) slow down, and (2) think.”
The examples in the opening pages cover life events, such as weddings, but the business-specific occasions start on page 379 onward. I can see the value of the earlier pages. Small business owners who have enough wisdom to broaden their personal experiences will benefit from the multipurpose scope of the book.
This approach sets up what can be a terrifically useful resource. Many times I find myself stuck on a word or phrase, using it in separate notes but still feeling as if I am being repetitive. My creative need to be unique gets challenged. The examples like the images below can illustrate where creativity should go:
To keep the tips assessable in a quick business moment, the text presents side notes as well as the do/not do lists with the example. There’s always context to show why certain words are chosen.
Other tips and ideas cover the gamut with a capital “C” – because the gamut is a capital “G.” The writing subjects include academic paper, invitation to weddings, playdates with family friends, and even the esoteric, like sharing a recipe. There’s also tips about writing a complaint. This is helpful for those tasked with customer service concerns.
The business-oriented tips emphasize courtesy, and like the rest of the book, shows how. Questions, business letters, and the eventual business apology are topics explored.
Brown’s ideas of inspired framework and hip-pocket lists of suggestions assured me that I will be rescued from writer’s block when it happens. I think you’ll find this book just as life-saving for your business communication needs.
Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing to colleagues and partners that “you’ll write anything…anything for you!”