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How to Use Short Words for Better Business Writing

In previous posts on making business writing more readable, we have discussed the importance of using short and simple words. In the following passage from the Members’ Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL), see how short words are essential for clear and effective writing.

Short Words

You don’t have to use long words when you speak or write. Most of the time, you can make your points quite well with short ones. In fact, big words may get in the way of what you want to say. And what’s more, when you use short words, no one will need to look them up to learn what they mean.

Short words can make us feel good. They can run and jump and dance and soar high in the clouds. They can kill the chill of a cold night and help us keep our cool on a hot day. They fill our hearts with joy, but they can bring tears to our eyes as well. A short word can be soft or strong. It can sting like a bee or sing like a lark. Small words of love can move us, charm us, lull us to sleep. Short words give us light and hope and peace and love and health ─ and a lot more good things. A small word can be as sweet as the taste of a ripe pear, or tart like plum jam.

Small words make us think. In fact, they are the heart and the soul of clear thought.

When you write, choose the short word if you can find one that will let you say what you want to say. If there is no short word, then go ahead and consider the utilisation of a sesquipedalian expression as a viable alternative, but be cognisant of the actuality that it could conceivably be incumbent upon many of your perusers to expand, by consulting a dictionary or perhaps an alternative lexicon of particularised patois, copious amounts of their invaluable time in attempting to determine the message you are endeavoring to impart to them through the instrumentality of your missive.

Richard Dowis
From Members’ Handbook of the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL)

How Aristotle Can Help You with Your Business Writing and Speaking

Although the Ancient Greeks may seem irrelevant to some, they developed many important concepts that influence many aspects of our lives today. One area where we can apply these concepts is in our business writing and speaking.

Aristotle’s Rhetoric is a prime example. In the book, Aristotle describes three essential elements of rhetoric: ethos, pathos and logos. Understanding these and applying them in your business writing and speaking will help you persuade your readers and listeners when you are promoting your products, services and ideas.

What is rhetoric?

Despite its negative image, rhetoric is the art of persuasive writing and speaking. There are many rhetorical appeals a writer can use. Aristotle broadly defined these as:

  • ethos – authority, credibility, character
  • pathos – emotion, identity, self-interest
  • logos – logic, reason.

According to Aristotle, any attempt to persuade your audience when writing or speaking should include all of these.

How you can apply Aristotle’s ideas to your business writing

Let’s look at a few examples of how you can use ethos, pathos and logos in your business writing and speaking.

Ethos

Ethos can be applied in many ways in your business writing and presentations to gain authority and credibility.

Your website is a great place to establish your credibility. You can do this is on your About Us page by showing your readers what you have achieved. This might be a list of satisfied clients, customer testimonials, projects you have completed successfully, industry or professional awards you have won, or profiles highlighting the skills and knowledge of your key personnel. Any of these will build your credibility and authority in the eyes or your readers.

If speaking at a public event, you can establish your ethos by the way you are introduced. The best way to ensure this is to write your own introduction, or at least list the main points that you want mentioned. These might include your educational achievements, previous roles, projects completed, your current responsibilities, and recognitions and awards.

Pathos

Many writers believe that pathos is the most important of the three appeals. Emotion can be introduced in many direct or subtle ways.

If writing a case study about your product or service, you can emphasise the frustration or discomfort the customer experienced before discovering your solution. If potential customers suffer from similar problems, they will connect with the emotional side of the case study.

A recent occupational health and safety television commercial by WorkSafe Victoria (Australia) appealed to the emotions by showing us a workplace accident scene and then switching to a family waiting for the husband and father to return from work. You’re not sure if he’s been hurt and you feel worried for the family. He returns safely in the end, but you get strong emotional reminder of the importance of maintaining safe work practices and environments.

Logos

Whether you want people to buy your products or agree with your ideas, you need to use some form of logic or reasoning in your business writing.

If you’re writing a brochure about your product, you can show how much time, money or effort it saves your customers. In many cases, you will want to use statistical data to make your point. To be more credible it will help to have third-party party confirmation – for example, from a customer or industry association.

A website of a major insurance provider points out that 80 per cent of Australians are underinsured and lists the source of the statistic as a survey conducted by a government agency. This fact will make readers think: “Am I one of the 80 per cent? Chances are that I am, and I need to do something about it to avoid serious problems.” In this case, the statistical fact leads to an emotional response.

Combining authority, emotion and reason in your business writing and presentations

Choosing the right mix of ethos, pathos and logos is the key to persuasive writing and speaking. How you combine the three will depend on the product, the service or idea you’re promoting, and your audience. Business managers, for example, often need to make a logical case for purchasing a new solution to a problem, so business-to-business products and services require a rational justification. Consumer products and services tend to be promoted on an emotional level. For example, if you’re selling a relaxing holiday on the beach or expensive jewellery, you will want to focus on the emotional side of your offering.

Michael Gladkoff

Editing Business Writing to Make It More Readable

Editing business writing will make a big difference in how you influence your readers. Studies show that long sentences make text difficult to comprehend. In general, it’s best to keep sentences below 35 words and aim for an average sentence length of around 20 words.

Let’s look at a few examples of unruly sentences and see how we can improve them when editing business writing.

The following sentence is 28 words long.

Selling is both an art and a science, and thinking that sales success will happen overnight is a common cause of cash flow problems for the small business.

It’s not too long, and it can easily be divided into two sentences to improve readability.

Selling is both an art and a science. Thinking that sales success will happen overnight is a common cause of cash flow problems for the small business.

The next sentence is 46 words long.

Small business competes with big business, and whilst small businesses may not be able to offer regular promotions or share options, they may be able to offer other attractive benefits such as a friendlier work environment, more flexibility, greater responsibility, a parking space or family-oriented policies.

By cutting this sentence into three sentences when editing business writing, we reduce the average length to 15 words and increase readability.

Small business competes with big business. Whilst small businesses may not be able to offer regular promotions or share options, they may be able to offer other attractive benefits. These might include a friendlier work environment, more flexibility, greater responsibility, a parking space or family-oriented policies.

On the Flesch Reading Ease Scale (explained in an earlier post, How to Improve the Readability of Your Business Writing) the 46-word sentence above has a readability of 0 out of 100, while the edited version has a readability of 24 out of 100 (with 100 being the most readable).

Generally, when you see many conjunctions (such as and, but, yet, or, so) it’s a good clue that sentences might be too long. In many cases you can end a sentence and begin a new one where you find one of these conjunctions.

One common error we see when editing business writing is the use of the conjunctive adverb however to splice two sentences together.

For example:

I have completed the proposal, however I have not submitted it.  (incorrect)

I have completed the proposal. However, I have not submitted it.  (correct)

I have completed the proposal; however, I have not submitted it.  (correct)

Avoiding long sentences is also important when writing promotional copy.

Try reading the following 53-word sentence.

Drawing back on our years of experience in consulting to businesses in array of issues, from ISO 9001 to business design and strategy, we developed a unique methodology that offers you a real quality solution for your ISO needs, without the expensive price tag that is usually attached to quality ISO 9001 systems.

When editing business writing, we can divide it into two sentences with an average length of 21.5 words per sentence.

We have drawn on extensive consulting experience ─ from ISO 9001 to business design and strategy ─ to develop a unique methodology that offers a quality solution to your ISO needs. We provide this without the typical high cost of quality ISO 9001 systems.

We also reduced the text by 10 words (from 53 to 43) without losing any meaning.

When using Microsoft Word, you can quickly determine the average sentence length of your business writing.

Take the following steps to show the readability statistics, which include average sentence length, at the end of the Spelling and Grammar check.

In Word 2007:

  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button , and then click Word Options.
  2. Click Proofing.
  3. Make sure Check grammar with spelling is selected.
  4. Under When correcting grammar in Word, select the Show readability statistics check box.

In Word 2003:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Spelling & Grammar tab.
  2. Select the Check grammar with spelling check box.
  3. Select the Show readability statistics check box, and then click OK.
  4. On the Standard toolbar, click Spelling and Grammar .

Check the help section to determine readability statistics with your software when editing business writing.

If you’re interested in improving business writing skills in your organisation, visit Business Writing Brilliance.  This is a tailored business writing course delivered in-house to organisations across Australia.

Editing Tips to Improve Your Business Writing

Editing Tips to Improve Your Business Writing

Editing is an essential step in developing effective business documents. Besides correcting grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors, editing can make your writing easier to understand and more persuasive. Here are a few simple editing tips that can help you make your business writing more clear and effective.

1. Replace complicated and long words and phrases with simple ones. Simple words often convey the same meaning as complicated ones, but require less space and are easier to read. For example, you can change ‘facilitate’ to ‘help’; ‘operate’ to ‘use’; and ‘substantiate’ to ‘prove’. Replacing wordy phrases with single words will make your writing more readable and efficient. For instance, replace ‘on a regular basis’ with ‘regularly’ and ‘at this point in time’ with ‘now’.

2. Edit your business writing to replace passive voice with active voice. For example, change ‘Innovative products and services are offered by our company’ to ‘Our company offers innovative products and services’. Using active voice requires fewer words and is more direct.

3. Break up long sentences into shorter ones. Research has shown that comprehension goes down when sentences are too long, so aim for an average sentence length of 20 words or fewer. Sentences over 35 words in length should be broken into two sentences, if possible, when editing.

4. Create a conversational tone by using the personal pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’. This is important when you want to connect with your customers and be perceived as approachable. For example, change ‘Advice can be obtained from our customer service department’ to ‘You can get advice from our customer service department’.

When editing business writing that is meant to persuade your readers, change ‘our clients’ to ‘you’. For example, ‘We offer you a comprehensive range of programs and services’ sounds conversational, while ‘We offer our clients a comprehensive range of programs and services’ does not.

Another way to make your writing more conversational and friendly is by writing ‘we’ instead of repeating your company name throughout the document.

5. Remove clichés. These overused phrases have lost their meanings and waste space. Examples of common clichés include phrases such as ‘at the end of the day’, ‘for all intents and purposes’ and ‘as safe as houses’.

6. Avoid using business and technical jargon. Like clichés, many of these terms are overused and have vague meanings. Corporate jargon includes words such as actionable, best practice, buy-in, drive (as in ‘drive sales’), incentivise, operationalise, repurpose and value proposition. When editing, think about your readers and replace words they won’t understand with common terms.

7. Read the first draft out loud to judge how it sounds. Is it complicated, wordy or pompous? Rewrite it to make it more human and less robotic.

Editing is an important step in business writing. By applying the editing tips outlined here, you can improve your business writing and communicate more effectively.

Freelance Business Writing — What’s a Fair Price for Freelance Business Writing?

Business people are often unsure of what they should pay for freelance business writing services provided by freelance business writers.

 

Business writers new to freelancing might not know what they should charge for their freelance business writing services.

 

This article looks at the issues businesses face when they need freelance business writing services. It will also help freelance business writers charge fair and competitive rates for their freelance business writing.

 

We begin by looking at a hypothetical business writer and his experience of moving from being a full-time employee to working as a freelance business writer.

 

The Story of Mr Business Writer

 

A writer, we’ll call him Mr Business Writer, works as an employee for an Australian company and hears that some freelance writers charge $70 per hour for their work. Mr Business Writer works for a good company. He has job security, but he’s tired of commuting to the office every day.

 

After hearing what freelance writers charge, Mr Business Writer quickly calculates the sums in his head. He figures he’ll make $2,800 per week from freelance business writing if he works 40 hours per week.

 

He gets out his calculator and analyses the details.

 

“Wow,” he says to himself. “I’ll be making $134,400 if I only work 48 forty-hour weeks each year.” (48 weeks x 40 hours per week x $70 per hour)

 

Mr Business Writer is on a salary package of $80,000 with his current employer. He thinks about the larger salary and the freedom that being a freelance business writer will bring. He finally gets enough courage to resign from his position. His family and friends tell him he’s crazy for quitting his secure business writing job. But he tells them how much more money he’ll make by becoming a freelance business writer.

 

Note: The salary amount above is typical for a business writing position in Australia. The figure will vary by country but the general concepts still apply.

 

Mr Business Writer Learns the Sad Truth

 

A few months later, Mr Business Writer has had some successes getting freelance business writing work. He feels busy but he’s not making the income that he expected. What’s the problem?

 

The answer is billable hours.

 

When Mr Business Writer first thought about becoming a freelance writer he mistakenly believed that he would be able to bill for all of the 40 hours he worked each week.

 

Offering Freelance Business Writing is a Business 

 

The truth is that freelance writing is a business. Besides spending time writing for his clients, Mr Business Writer needs time for sales, marketing and administration activities. Experienced freelance writers realise this fact.

 

Michael Meanwell, author of The Wealthy Writer, has been a freelance business writer since the early 1990s. In his book he writes that only about half the time freelance writers spend in their businesses is billable. The rest of the time is spent on administration, sales and marketing, and other activities needed to run a business.

 

In the case of Mr Business Writer, he’s probably only able to bill for 20 hours of work each week if he’s working a total of 40 hours per week. In reality he’s making $1400 per week (20 hours x $70 per hour). This isn’t taking his business expenses into account.

 

Even if he works from a home office, he will still need to advertise, drive to meetings, make phone calls, create a website, have stationery printed, etc. If he keeps his costs low – let’s say $200 per week – he will be spending $10,400 each year.

 

Let’s look at the overall profit Mr Business Writer will make in a year.

 

Profit = (48 weeks x 20 billable hours per week x $70 per hour) – $10,400 = $56,800

 

So he’s now making $23,200 less per year – but he’s working the same number of hours as when he was employed as a business writer.

 

To make what he earned in his previous business writing job, Mr Business Writer will have to charge $94.17 per hour.

 

Profit = (48 weeks x 20 billable hours per week x $94.17 per hour) – $10,400 = $80,000

 

Although this may sound exorbitant for freelance business writing, it’s a fair price based on what companies pay their employees for this type of work.

 

If Mr Business Writer decides to work 50 hours per week, he might have 25 billable hours. In order to make as much as he earned as an in-house business writer, he would have to charge $75.33 per hour. This is slightly more than the $70 per hour he originally planned to charge for business writing, but he would be working more.

 

Mr Business Writer received other benefits in addition to his salary package when he was an employee. One benefit was attending training events to help him develop his skills. As a freelance writer, such benefits are a cost that need to be considered when setting rates for business writing.

 

Business writing is a profession. Many years of study and hands-on experience are required to become a proficient business writer. If Mr Business Writer charges around $95 per hour for his services, he’s charging much less than other professionals, such as solicitors and accountants, charge for their services.

 

Another point to consider is the premium (profit) that freelance business writers should earn for taking the risk of being in business. By leaving his secure job, Mr Business Writer has taken on significant risks. What if he can’t find enough work for extended periods of time? What if a few clients don’t pay him? To justify the risks taken to move into a freelance business writing, Mr Business Writer should earn more than he earned as an employee. This premium needs to be added to his business writing fees.

 

The Cheapest Freelance Business Writing is Not the Solution

 

Some businesses will search for the lowest price to get their business writing job done. They usually get what they pay for.

 

One strategy is to get the work done overseas in countries such as India and the Philippines. Although there are many intelligent and educated business writers in these countries, cultural differences make it difficult to get satisfactory business writing from them.

 

To be a freelance business writer, you really need to live in the country and understand the cultural and linguistic nuances. I have lived in Australia and the United States and feel comfortable writing for these markets, but I don’t feel that way about writing for UK readers in the UK.

 

You probably experienced this cultural gap when you have received calls from overseas call centres. The people are friendly and most of them can speak English well, but there is a communication gap. This same communication mismatch arises when outsourcing business writing to overseas business writers.

 

Although these overseas writers charge much less per hour for business writing, I have heard that it often takes many more hours for them to complete the same amount of work. Plus there’s the cost of communicating with overseas business writers. So in the long run, outsourcing to overseas business writers won’t save any time or money.

 

Price shouldn’t be the only factor you look at when choosing a business writer. Would you choose a dentist, doctor, accountant or solicitor based on the cheapest price? You probably would select these professionals based on other factors including the quality of work and track record. Yet some people choose a freelance business writer by only considering the price.

 

Contract Business Writers

 

Hiring contract business writers to work in-house is another option. But by the time the business pays the hourly rate plus benefits and employment agencies fees, it will probably be less expensive to hire a freelance business writer.

 

With a contract business writer, the company needs to find desk space, a computer and other resources. These are a hidden costs that might not be considered.

 

A contract business writer working in-house probably won’t be as productive as a freelance business writer  working offsite. Most business are lucky to get four or five productive hours per day out of their employees. A large portion of most working days is taken up by employee interaction that isn’t productive (such as unnecessary meetings and tea breaks). A contract business writer can quickly fall into a routine of low productivity, so they will end up costing more when compared to a freelance business writer.

 

Another hindrance for the contract business writer working in house is the open plan office. Whether writing a novel or business plan, good writing requires solitude. Most modern offices don’t provide the distraction-free environment required for quality business writing.

 

Lessons for Business Writers and Companies Hiring Business Writers

 

The aim of this post is to enlighten both business writers and organisations purchasing business writing services.

 

Freelance business writers need to realise they are in business. It’s common that billable hours are only half the total time spent in the business.

 

Organisations hiring business writers need to realise that business writing is a profession. Choosing a business writer strictly on the basis of price is a mistake.

 

Although most business writers don’t charge as much as solicitors or accountants, they are professionals who have spent considerable time and money developing their skills. This must be taken into account when paying for business writing services.

 

 

About the author: Michael Gladkoff is a business writer, speech writer and editor. His company, Word Nerds, provides copywriting, business writing, speech writing, editing and proofreading services to a wide range of businesses.

 

This article may be reproduced on other websites as long the author is credited and the source website, www.wordnerds.com.au, is included.

 

 

 

How to Improve the Readability of Your Business Writing with Flesch Reading Ease Scores

 

A quick and simple way to improve your business writing is to measure its readability. Measuring your business writing might sound strange, but it is an objective way to analyse your business writing.

 

Before showing you how to apply the concept of readability to your business writing, I’ll explain what it is.

 

Standards for measuring readability of texts date back to the 900s AD when students of the Jewish body of laws, the Talmud, counted the occurrences of words and ideas in order to distinguish differences in meaning. The result was an early attempt to measure readability.

 

Modern research into readability began in the 1920s when Thorndike published a list of English words used more frequently in texts. It was assumed that a word used more frequently became more familiar to readers and, therefore, easier to read. During the 1920s, the research focused on word factors that could be used to predict readability. In the 1930s and 1940s, the research broadened and led to the derivation of formulas that could accurately predict readability using a minimum number of factors.

 

Shortages of newsprint during World War II resulted in thinner newspapers with more tightly written articles. During this time Robert P. Gunning developed the Fog Index that counted number of words and the frequency of multi-syllabic words in an article. He told his clients, ‘Write as you talk…Why should a police reporter say an accident victim suffered “contusions and abrasions” when he really means “cuts and bruises?” This idea can be applied to business writing.

 

There are more than 40 formulas that measure readability. Two that are most widely used today are Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level and Flesch Reading Ease. These can be used to measure the readability of your business writing.

 

Rudolph Flesch developed these two standards in the 1940s. They are calculated using the average number of syllables per word and the average number of words per sentence. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula gives a score between the numbers 1 and 12, corresponding to school grade levels in the United States. The Flesch Reading Ease formula gives a number score between 1 and 100. The higher the score, the greater the readability. Most

written materials range between 60 and 70 on this scale. Both formulas are summarised and defined in mathematical terms as follows:

 

Flesch Reading Ease = 206.835 – (1.015 x ASL) – (84.6 x ASW)

 

Where:

ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences).

ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words).

 

The Flesch-Kincaid formula converts the Reading Ease Score to a school year level (1 to 12).

 

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level = (.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59

 

Where:

 

ASL = average sentence length (the number of words divided by the number of sentences).

 

ASW = average number of syllables per word (the number of syllables divided by the number of words).

 

The formulas are based on the fact that greater average words per sentence and greater average syllables per word make the text more difficult to read. You can calculate the formulas once you know the average words per sentence and average number of syllables per word.

 

In the past, before widespread access to personal computers, you had to count the words and syllables in your business writing to determine ASL and ASW.

 

Fortunately, you can analyse your business writing at the end of Spelling and Grammar check in Microsoft Word. First you need to check your settings in Microsoft Word.

 

Select Options in the Tools menu. In Options select the Spelling and Grammar tab. In the Grammar section of the box select both the Check grammar with spelling and the Show readability statistics boxes. With these options enabled, the readability statistics of your business writing will automatically appear at the end of the Spelling and Grammar check .

 There are also a number of websites where you check the readability of your business writing. One of them is

http://www.online-utility.org/english/readability_test_and_improve.jsp .

Simply copy and paste your business writing into the tool to analyse its readability.

  

Text for a general readership should have a minimum Reading Ease score of 40. If you examine Australian newspapers such as The Age and Herald Sun, their articles have Flesch-Kincaid Grade Levels between 10.0 and 12.0 and Flesch Reading Ease scores between 44 and 60. Most of the writing in these publications is accessible to readers who have successfully completed a secondary education. In most cases, you’ll want to keep your business writing in a similar ranges on the readability scales.

 

Applying readability to business writing

 

When writing for business, you should strive for a Flesch Reading Ease of 40 or greater. You do this by using simple words instead of complicated ones and replacing phrases with single words when possible.

Another key is to write short sentences in your business writing. The Readability Statistics box shown above displays the average sentence length. Effective business writing has an average sentence length of 20 or fewer words. It’s also to important to vary sentence length when business writing. You might have some 30-word sentences and you might have some 5-words sentences in your business writing, but aim for an average of 20 or fewer words per sentence.

(See https://www.word-nerds.com.au/category/copywriting/ for explanations on using simple words and short sentences.)

 

You don’t want your business writing to resemble legal, technical, scientific documents, which are notoriously difficult to read. Many government tax publications, insurance policies and legal documents are written at a PhD level. You don’t want to do this in your business writing.

 

Many organisations are now promoting plain language documents using Flesch-Kincaid analysis as a guide. The Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner shows samples of documents on its website highlighting the differences between traditional and plain language versions. The traditional version of a home equity loan contract consists of 139 words and has a very low Flesch Reading Ease score of 12.7.

Unless applicable law requires a different method, any notice that must be given to me under this Note will be given by delivering it or by mailing it by first class mail to me at the Property Address above or at a different address if I give the Note Holder a notice of my different address.
Any notice that must be given to the Note Holder under this Note will be given by delivering it or by mailing it by first class mail to the Note Holder at the address stated in Section 3(A) above or at a different address if I am given a notice of first class mail to the Note Holder at the address stated in Section 3(A) above or at a different address if I am given a notice of that different address.

 

A plain language version conveys the same information but contains only 42 words and has a high Flesch Reading Ease of 73.7.

You or I may mail or deliver any notice to the address above. You or I may change the notice address by giving written notice. Your duty to give me notice will be satisfied when you mail it by first class mail.

 

Plain language is also best for business writing. Consumers, business people, and other readers don’t have the time for wordy business writing.

 

Let’s look at an example to show you have to make your business writing more readable.

Drawing back on our years of experience in consulting to businesses in array of issues, from ISO 9001 to business design and strategy, we developed a unique methodology that offers you a real quality solution for your ISO needs, without the expensive price tag that is usually attached to quality ISO 9001 systems.

 

This sentence has a Flesch Reading Ease score of zero. Let’s rewrite to see if we can improve the readability of the business writing.

We have drawn on extensive consulting experience ─ from ISO9001 to business design and strategy ─ to develop a unique methodology that offers a quality solution to your ISO needs. We provide this without the typical high cost of quality ISO 9001 systems.

 

After a quick rewrite we have raised the Flesch Reading Ease Score from 0 to 27 out of 100. We also reduced the average sentence length from 53 to 21 words, and lowered the total word count by nearly 20 per cent ─ from 53 to 43.

 

Readability formulas can be an effective tool to analyse your business writing for its suitability for your audience. These formulas have existed, in some form, for over one thousand years. With personal computers they are very easy to apply and can greatly improve your business writing.

 

Simple Tips to Improve Your Business Writing

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.

 

  1. Free advice can be obtained from our sales department.

 

  1. 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.

 

Blog On Copywriting

Welcome to our new blog on copywriting.

In the coming months and years we’ll be covering a diverse range of topics on all forms of written communication for business. We’ll divide these into four main categories: copywriting, speech writing, business writing, editing and proofreading. During the next five weeks ─ through the end of January 2009 ─ we’ll be looking at copywriting.

There is a lot of confusion about copywriting. Many business people don’t have a clear understanding about copy writing and its importance. I’ve met small and medium business owners and managers who are surprised that an outside company or individual would offer to write copy for their business. Some are even surprised that such a service exists. One of their first questions is, ‘How can you write about our business if you’re not in our business?’ Others confuse the term copywriting with copyright, a legal concept for protecting intellectual property.

On the other hand, there are professional copywriters who have a very narrow definition of copy writing. They think that the only good copy writing is direct response copywriting. These are the copywriting gurus who offer to teach you copy writing in a weekend ─ for the special price of $6,000 for a three-day course. You’ll learn all the copy writing secrets and become tremendously successful in a very short time.  

In the coming months I’ll cover copy writing from the ground up. The first step will be to give you a solid definition of copy writing. Then we’ll look at the different types of copy to determine which style is best for your product, your service and your organisation.

See you soon!