Zeid’s Rules

I participated in a day-long computer workshop where several of us were asked to give presentations. The organizers asked me to give presentations on business writing. One major question in mine was “What are Zeid’s Rules?”

These are simply rules I have made up based on my experience in the business world. I present these rules as advice or good practices in the world of business communication. There is no particular order or rank of importance because these are tailored to the situation. Here they are. I do hope you find them useful.

Never reply when angry – we often get email messages or memos from others that upset us. There is nothing wrong with writing out a reply expressing your anger, but do it on a word document, then destroy it. Don’t vent in business communications. Take a day or two to calm down before replying.

Always be professional – no profanity – the use of profanity and insults really have no place in business communications. Arguments backed by logic and facts carry much greater weight. Also, the use of profanity and insults loses you creditability, regardless of how right you are.

One plus three read your message – whenever you write a letter or email message, realize that many others, in addition to the person you send it to, will read the message. Think of every message going to one person who will show it at least three other people. This will make you think carefully how you are wording the message.

Think twice about emojis – these aren’t professional. Remember, others are going to read the message. Do you want them to see your emojis?

Follow up and respond – what’s the status – when someone sends you a message, especially if that person has asked you to do something, let him or her know you got the message and what action you are taking. People are a lot more understanding if they know you are taking care of them.

Don’t sound psycho – too many people rant, especially on social media, or they make a statement without explaining what they mean. Think before writing and make sure you statements make sense, especially to those who are not familiar with the issue

Read the whole email chain, but don’t resend the chain if it isn’t necessary – read the entire email chain instead of just the last entry. Often the questions you have are already answered. If this email chain is on a social media bulletin board, don’t resend the entire chain with lots of comments unless it is necessary. Usually, it is not.

Don’t’ forget attribution – if you are telling me something, especially some fact, let me know where you got that information. Knowing the source of the information helps me evaluate what is written. A lack of attribution hurts your creditability.

During disasters – use texting and instant messaging instead of calling people on the phone. During disasters, phone lines, including cell towers, are overwhelmed. You probably won’t get through. However, text message take less energy and usually do get through.

Let the phone ring – while just about everyone has a cell phone, not everyone is carrying it when you call. Many people have it in a purse or backpack or in their pocket. Sometimes it’s in another room. Let the phone ring at least six times before hanging up. Letting it ring twice and then hanging up is just rude.

Speak slowly and clearly when leaving a message – if you leave a message on voice mail, think about the person on the other end. Give that individual the opportunity to write down your name and phone number, especially if the person doesn’t know you.

Always send a cover letter – never send forms, data, etc. without explaining what the person is supposed to do with them. And always mention all enclosures in the message part of the cover letter.

Establish press connections before it is necessary – it is better to have a working relationship with the press before an incident. If you have this relationship, things will go much smoother when an incident happens.

Be a broken record when dealing with the press – if anyone from the press or news media contacts you, that person should be referred to the public relations office. No matter what the reporter asks, give him or her the same answer – They should call the public relations office.

Get briefed before going to the field if press has direct contact with you. Many times you will be in a situation where you will have direct contact with the news media. Your public relations office should brief you beforehand on what you can say and what you can’t say. If you are in doubt, refer the press to the public relations office.

Send out more than one press release. A single press release can get lost in the mail, put aside on an editor’s desk, or forgotten. Always send out more than one press release for any event. If more than one organization is involved, then each organization should send out a press release.

If it is a negative situation, don’t be afraid to make a press release, but get it cleared first as to not compromise any investigation. Make sure of your facts, but do issue an press release. Make sure to clear it with the legal department and others before making it. Failure to make a statement, or being evasive, will only make things worse.

Do not respond to accuser’s attack or comments. They are designed to aggravate the situation. Many times there are people who want to aggravate the situation (such as protesters), and sometimes the media, who make comments designed to make you or organization look bad to the press. Don’t respond to these attacks or comments. Your public relations office should handle these people.

Forget the rule of limiting resumes to one page when posting on a website. The one page resume rule was made when we had a hundred of them printed up and gave or mailed them to employers. Now, most job applications are on line and they demand a much more comprehensive description of your experience. However, having a one-page resume to give out to others when networking (letting others know you’re looking for a job) is a good idea.

Use numbers when writing a resume – tell them how many people you supervised, how much money you saved or raised, how many projects or reports you did. Numbers impress people and give them a better idea of what you accomplished.

Use bullets – five to seven for each job. Most resumes are not read; they are quickly glanced at. Use bullets to describe what you did. It is easier to read and more noticeable.

Use the language in the job description when applying for a job. When applying for a job, use the language the company used to describe the job in your resume. This is especially useful when applying on line because many companies screen resumes by looking for specific words, usually the ones they used to describe the job.

Don’t lie on resumes – you can brag, but don’t lie. This is especially true for job experience and education. These lies can be grounds for firing you.

Once you lose credibility, you will never get it back. If you lie, if you take credit for someone else’s work, if you resort to insults and profanity; you lose creditability. Once it’s gone, you will never regain it.

Remember your audience – every letter, email message, report, etc. is written not for you; but for your audience. The goal of communication is to get your message to the audience, not to boost your ego.

Avoid using acronyms – the use of acronyms often creates a barrier between you and your audience. If your audience doesn’t know what the acronym means, then they see you as being arrogant and condescending. They stop trying to understand your message. This means you have wasted your time, because they aren’t listening.