Business writing is an essential skill today. Whether you are part of a large corporation or the only employee of a brand-new startup, you need to be able to write. Whether you are communicating with others via email, preparing a presentation, designing promotional materials, or composing a grant proposal, you should have some knowledge about writing rules in order to appear professional in your role.
The problem is that most people have not achieved the level of experience in writing that is required for everyday business purposes. Business programs rarely touch upon simple grammar and punctuation requirements and most people know more about the rules of the office than whether a period goes inside or outside of the quotation marks.
Regardless of your level of schooling up to this point or your position within the organization, these tips will help you achieve writing perfection for flawless business letters, presentation folders, advertising mailers, or more.
Business Writing Tip #1: Know Your Audience
Before you write a single word, consider who you are writing for. Is this a business letter to a professional colleague? An email to a coworker? A marketing piece to a potential customer?
It’s important to know your target audience and what specifically you would like to achieve with this particular piece of writing. The more thought you put into your audience and how you can help them, the more likely your end result will powerfully portray your intended meaning.
Business Writing Tip #2: Say What You Mean
In business writing, less is more. Now is not the time to show your extensive vocabulary skills and ability to expound on a topic through florid and meandering prose. Instead, get to the point. Your readers are busy and do not have the time – or the inclination – to read fancy, complex text. Instead, make your point and move on.
Also avoid company acronyms and industry jargon unless you are 100% certain that your reader understands it.
Business Writing Tip #3: Write In A Conversational Tone
While you want to remain professional, writing in too formal or bureaucratic of a tone can be offputting. Try to write in the same way that you would speak, using words that you would typically use. Even when writing a marketing piece, it is best to write in a personal and inviting tone, which is more likely to engage readers.
Business Writing Tip #4: Use Spellcheck, But Don’t Rely Entirely On It
Spellcheck such as Grammarly is a great way to find typos, write? Oops… right? Spellcheck is only effective if the word you type isn’t a word. If you mix up homophones or just happen to spell a different word in your typo (i.e. “work” instead of “word” or “buy” instead of “but”), it will not catch it.
Besides, it’s always a good idea to physically proofread something written several hours later to check for errors that go beyond spelling. Read the content through to verify that everything makes sense, your facts are correct, and the tone is what you intend it to be for your target audience.
Business Writing Tip #5: Answer All Questions
When writing any type of business communication, whether to customers or coworkers, make sure that you answer all questions they may have. The most common formula for ensuring this is done completely is to answer the five W’s (and one H): Who? What? When? Where? Why? And How?
Who? All employees who work in Human Resources
What? A department meeting
When? 3:00 today
Where? In the 3rd floor conference room
Why? To discuss the new hire policy
The “how” question might not always be applicable, but might be required for conference calls, lunch meetings, or other situations which require you to inform your reader how to use the information you are providing. Try to anticipate any questions your readers may have and answer them in advance.
Business Writing Tip #6: Formatting Is Important
When writing a business letter or marketing newsletter, it’s important to format it so that it can easily be consumed by the reader. Break long paragraphs into smaller ones. Keep a wide margin of white space around the text. Use headings, bold, and italics to make words or sections stand out.
Using this technique will not only make your business writing easier to read, it will also be helpful for people looking for particular information or referring to important content later.
Business writing will be a part of your every day at the office, but it doesn’t need to be scary. When writing – regardless of what it is – you should follow standard grammar and punctuation rules. But beyond that, take into account the above six tips to improve your communication skills and, possibly, your business success.