Many people believe business writing is a frustrating task that should be avoided. But good business writing is important for building and maintaining your company’s image. The following tips will help you achieve clearer and more effective business writing.
What is your business writing objective?
Before you begin, you need to think about the objective of your business writing. Is it to inform, educate, persuade or entertain? It could be one or a combination of these. Whether you’re writing a report, letter or email, you need to identify the message you want to present to your readers. A simple way to do this is to write a one-sentence summary of your objective and keep it in front of you as you write.
Keep your business writing simple
The large amount of business information available today is overwhelming. Why complicate and lengthen your communication when you don’t have to? Simple words and phrases are easier to read and take up less space on the page. When writing, choose simple words that convey the same meaning as complicated ones. For example, write:
· ‘help’ instead of ‘facilitate’
· ‘use’ instead of ‘operate’
· ‘prove’ instead of ‘substantiate’
· ‘now’ instead of ‘currently.’
This also applies to phrases. For example, replace ‘on a regular basis’ with ‘regularly’ and ‘at this point in time’ with ‘now’.
Using simple words and phrases will shorten the length of your writing and make it easier to read.
Use active voice in your business writing
Business writing that uses active voice is stronger and more direct than passive voice. Compare the following two sentences.
1. Innovative products and services are offered by our company.
2. Our company offers innovative products and services.
The first is in passive voice and the second is in active voice. The active voice example says the same thing but uses fewer words and is more direct. Which would you choose for your business writing?
Use personal pronouns
Personal pronouns such as ‘you’ and ‘we’ are good in business text. They create a conversational tone that is friendlier and speaks directly to the reader. Compare the following two examples.
- Free advice can be obtained from our sales department.
- You can get free advice from our sales department.
The first example sounds formal and distant, while the second speaks directly to the customer.
Another way to make your business writing more friendly and natural is to write ‘we’ instead of constantly repeating your company’s name.
Aim for a short average sentence length for better business communication
Sentence length is an important factor to consider in business writing. Research shows that comprehension goes down when sentences are too long, so keep your average sentence length below 20 words. A sentence of over 35 words should be broken into two sentences, if possible. To see the average sentence length of your business writing when using Microsoft Word, tick Show Readability Statistics in the Spelling and Grammar options. The average sentence length will appear at the end of the spelling and grammar check.
Avoid clichés in your business writing
Clichés are overused phrases that have lost any meaning. Avoid phrases such as ‘at the end of the day’, ‘for all intents and purposes’ and ‘as safe as houses’ in your writing. They add no meaning to your text and waste your readers’ time.
Use a conversational tone in your business writing
One tip for maintaining a conversational tone in your business writing is to use contractions. Instead of writing ‘it is’, write it’s. Write ‘we’re’ instead of ‘we are’. Many of us don’t feel comfortable using contractions in our writing because some English teacher told us it was bad. It might not be appropriate in a formal school essay, but it’s best for most types of business writing. If you don’t use contractions, your corporate writing will sound robotic.
Another way to create a conversational tone in your business writing is to read the first draft aloud to judge how it sounds. Would you speak this way to a client or associate? If not, it’s a good idea to go back to your writing and make changes.
Rewrite your business writing until you get it right
Even experienced business writers rarely get it right the first time. They might create two, three or more drafts before being satisfied with their writing. You’ll find ways to improve what you have written by carefully reading it. Sometimes it helps to wait a day or two to let your business writing ‘cool off’ before you go back to it.
It’s also a good idea to have a friend or colleague review what you have written. You might think you have expressed your ideas clearly, while others don’t. Feedback from others can help you improve your business writing.
There is no need to be frustrated the next time you have to complete a writing project. Applying these simple tips will help you express your ideas clearly and will make a big difference in the impression you create through your written business communication.
If you are interested in bringing these ideas to your business, we offer in-house training programs. Visit Business Writing Brilliance for more information.