The modern business world is an information-driven machine. And whether you work in the corner office of a mega corporate conglomerate or are running your own small business, there’s a great chance that you’re spending a lot of time communicating through writing. Emails, written presentations, proposals, memos, training materials, job descriptions and the traditional business letter are just a handful of the types of documents that are passed through the business world.
The problem is though that relatively few people actually have any experience with business writing. Business programs don’t emphasize it and it’s not exactly like people decide to go to business school to learn how to write. In fact, for those who didn’t attend university, it’s very likely that they haven’t had to really write anything since high school. However, if you’re not a good writer, but have the foresight to see the advantage of developing solid writing skills, then all it takes is a willingness to learn and some discipline to seriously improve your writing ability. With that in mind, here are some tips and tools to get you going.
1) Keep Things Smooth and Crisp
Although this is true for all types of writing, when it comes to business writing, concise writing is particularly crucial. Despite the ever-growing importance of written information in the business world, thanks to the speed of modern communicate technology, people are actually less inclined to read. So no meandering sentences lost the florid prose, and use words that effectively and efficiently get to the point of what you want to say.
2) Stay Away From Corporate Mumbo Jumbo
Office managers might like to rattle on about “strategical synergies” and “Core Competency”, but it’s annoying to listen to and even worse to read; stick with basic phrases that have actual meaning such as “working together” and “brainstorming” and you’ll get your point across in a clear, non-pretentious way. In fact, even though jargon is sometimes necessary, such as in a document concerning something sort of technical specification, you’ll still be better off if you stick to plain language. Jargon is essentially a way to write or speak without really saying anything.
Perfect for multi-page documents, Scrivener is a tool that allows you to write your documents in non-linear sections. You can then place those sections in the order that works best. Writers also have to ability to insert research information and notes next to every paragraph.
4) SBA’s Build Your Business Plan
Created to support businesses, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a free tool that guides your business step-by-step through the process of creating your business plan. Using this tool, business’s will not only create a functional business plan, but will gain significant insight as to what they’ve accomplished so far, their present status, and what the future holds for them.
5) Walk Away Before You Hit Send
Reviewing your work isn’t just about catching grammatical errors and typos, it also serves the purpose of identifying spots where your tone is off. An example of this is writing when we’re stressed or upset. Words and phrases can come out the wrong way that could spell trouble if not eliminated or altered, so step away from your writing for a bit. When you come back, read the document over and make sure it’s coming across the way you want it to.
6) Try A Writing Service
If it’s tough to find the time to write, or you just don’t trust your skills yet, you can always go with a professional. Services like essays solutions provide professional writers who work with you to create great customized writing. Even better, no matter what the time of day, if you need to speak with some or place an order, someone is available live 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
7) Keep A Close Eye On Titles, Names, and Genders
Making a single typo is one thing, but constantly misspelling someone’s name, listing the wrong job title, or consistently throwing in a “Mr.” when there should be a “Mrs.”, can be the sort of embarrassing thing you don’t walk away from unscathed. So if you need clarification on something, make sure to either get the facts from someone knows them or simply use gender-neutral terms such as “their” or “they”.
If you’ve put together a particularly effective email, letter, memo or any other type of business document, save it as a template. Rushing through your work is a great way to get typos and errors, and a template can save you a lot of time, allowing you to make sure you don’t make embarrassing mistakes. One important note about using templates, be sure to get rid of any specific companies, names, etc. before you use it again.
9) Be Professional, But Stay Informal
While formal language works for job applications and legal documents, as with jargon, it can be counter-productive. Rigid, formal writing can obscure meaning and cause the writing to become dense and dragged out. However, “informal” doesn’t mean “unprofessional”. Stay far away from inappropriate jokes, snarky remarks, and off-hand personal comments. A good rule-of-thumb is this, don’t send any business documents with language that you wouldn’t want to be read out loud publicly
10) Dragon Dictation
If you really don’t want to write, Dragon Dictation is a great tool that allows you to turn your speech into text by speaking into the computer microphone, tablet or smartphone. After that, simply export or copy the material to your Word document or e-mail and send it on its way.
11) Distinguish Facts From Opinion
You want to be sure that whoever’s reading your communication can clearly tell if something you state is fact or simply opinion. This keeps your message precise and you won’t have to any misunderstandings.
12) Put the Reader Front and Center
While it’s critical to understand what your audience wants from you, it’s just as important to structure your writing in a way that conveys the proper meaning. Focus on creating documents that are written from the reader’s perspective instead of yours. Doing this gives you a better chance of making your recipients happy, which in turn, leads them to be more willing to support you or work with you. On top of that, writing in an audience-centered way helps create a feel-good environment and gives you a greater aura of trustworthiness.
While most communications in the business world are meant to provide information, they’re also created to obtain a response from the recipient. The best way to achieve the necessary response is to include a call to action. You want you call-to-action to be clear and specific, so avoid any vagueness about what the reader should do with the info provided, and if possible, create a sense of urgency that it’s something they need to do right now.
As I talked about at the start of the article, having solid writing skills is a necessity in today’s business world. But while we might not all be great writers, everyone has the ability to become an effective one. So just implement the tips and tools listed above, and you’ll be well on your way to improving your business writing skills.