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Communication and the Web
- a Guide for Women Business Owners

Differences in the way women and men communicate in business situations have been well studied. It is important that women business owners use communication styles that are assertive and confident. This is true for all forms of business communication, including web sites. Many times the first impression of your business is your web site. This article will discuss how both the content of your site and the grammar used can make you sound more assertive and confident.

Content

- Flaunt you and your company's accomplishments. When introducing your business on your site include your expertise and experience. Don't assume that your company's accomplishments will speak for themselves. Promote your business by listing all that it has accomplished, and don't ascribe your business's success to luck. Avoid statements that that cast your company in a helping role. Women are often stereotyped as helpers and nurturers. Rather than saying you can 'help' your customers, instead cast your business as a powerful mover and shaker in your field.

- Get to the point. Leave out rapport building and personal comments about family, feelings, etc. If you must include these types of comments on your site, put them in a separate section, not on the first page of your site. For example, I once saw a real estate agent's site where the first paragraph stated that she was a grandmother of 3, and then showed pictures of the grandkids. A better approach would have been to point out her skills and experience as a real estate agent. If she felt it necessary to include information about her family, she could have done so on an 'About Me' page. Also, limit the amount of background information on the first page, especially if it gets in the way of discussing the focus of your business. A page about the history of your company could be added for this purpose. Remember, if you want your business site to be taken seriously, it shouldn't look like a personal home page. It needs to convey a professional image to be successful.

- Don't reveal any weaknesses or shortcomings of your business. This is not only relevant to the information on your site, but also to any e-mails you may send to people who contact you through your site. Be honest but don't give more information than you need to. For example, suppose there is a particular service you would like to offer through your site. It is something you know how to do, and feel confident that you can complete it adequately for a client. However, you have not yet actually provided this service to an actual client. It is not necessary to state that on your site. Don't lie, but don't advertise the lack of experience either.

Grammar

- Avoid hedges. Hedges include phrases like 'sort of', 'might be', 'kind of', 'maybe', etc. They convey the message that you are not willing to commit yourself to a particular statement or idea.

- Use only the words you need. Avoid using 'but' and 'and' too much. Check your sentences, eliminate words that do not add value to what you are trying to communicate.

- Be precise. Avoid using vague words like 'very' and 'many'. For example, instead of 'Many of our customers bought product x', try 'Eight out of 10 of our customers bought product x'.

- Use the active voice. Construct sentences using the active voice: subject - verb - object. Active voice sentences sound more powerful: 'The man closed the door'. The alternative passive voice version would be: 'The door was closed by the man'. The main subject of the sentence is the man. In the passive voice version the subject gets pushed to the end of the sentence. The verb "to be" also needs to be used, as 'was' in this case.

- Avoid 'I' sentences. Women have a tendency to start sentences with the word 'I' even when they are not the subject of the sentence. For example: 'I think we have the product you need'. 'We' should be the subject of the sentence. Using 'I think' conveys the message that you are not sure of the facts - it is just something that you think or believe. 'We have the product you need' sounds more confident.

- Use action verbs. Verbs indicate either a state-of-being or an action. The sentence: 'I am the boss' uses the verb "to be" to indicate a state-of-being or what something or someone is. Action verbs indicate what something or someone is doing. If you are not talking about a state-of-being an action verb should be used, it sounds more assertive. The sentence: 'The web site is good for our customer support team' could be changed to: 'The web site benefits our customer support team'.

Recommended Reading

More information about grammar styles and other types of communication can be found in: 'How to Say It for Women' by Phyllis Mindell.

'Hardball for Women' by Susan K. Golant and 'How Men Think' by Adrienne Mendell both discuss the different communication styles of women and men.

'Why Good Girls Don't Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do' by Kate White focuses on how women can take control of their lives and careers.

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