In business, first impressions are often made not with a handshake, but with an email. And the message we send with the quality and clarity of our writing often speaks louder than the content itself.
When was the last time you thought about your skill as a writer? If you’re answer is, "Not since high school English class,” then this post is for you. From crafting a tweet to sending a follow-up email, you will constantly be judged on your writing.
Keep reading for some of our favorite tips for better business writing:
1. Start by asking yourself: “Who is reading this and why do they care?”
Your audience and main point should be top of mind as you craft whatever it is you’re writing.
Try this exercise: Before you begin writing or even outlining, jot down your thesis statement (remember those?!). A thesis statement is a short summary of your main point or argument. Place this at the top of the page as a reminder or write it out on a sticky note. Check back in on your thesis statement periodically to ensure you’re on track.
2. Use proper grammar
If you’re the culprit of grammar crimes such as using the wrong they’re, their, there or to, too etc., then consider enlisting the help of technology to check your writing. Grammarly is a free tool that corrects and improves writing in real time, with paid upgrades for additional proofreading services.
3. Lose the business jargon
We’re all guilty of it…
“Let’s circle back by EOD to find some ways to better leverage the data to produce the best ROI.”
...but jargon always equates to bad writing. It prioritizes brevity over clarity, and makes your language so vague and generic as to obscure your point. You also can’t assume the people reading your work will know the same lingo as you. Instead, focus on using clear but effective language that can be understood by a range of readers.
4. Stick to the active voice
Use the active voice as often as possible. While passive voice sentences can be sprinkled in occasionally, overusing the passive voice causes writing to be clunky, wordy and tiresome to read.
Not totally sure of the difference between the active and passive voice? Here’s a quick refresher:
- In the active voice, the subject of the sentences acts on the object
- In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence receives the action.
Here’s an example of how to transform a passive voice sentence into an active voice sentence:
Object = lease
Subject = tenant
Action = signing
Passive: The lease was signed by the tenant.
Active: The tenant signed the lease
The result is a more concise sentence with two fewer words.
Take a critical lense to your writing and see if you can turn passive sentences into active ones with a few small tweaks.
5. Proofread out loud
Never underestimate the efficacy of this tried and true trick. Sure, you may sound odd for a few minutes, but it’s better than publishing a misspelled word or repetitive sentence.
6. Break it into bite-sized chunks
Often, our writing suffers not because we lack skill, but because we lack patience.
Since getting started is always the toughest part, try this simple trick: Break your writing task into manageable chunks. Rather than tell yourself, “I need to sit down to write this 2,000 word report,” tell yourself, “all I need to do is write an outline.” Once you’ve completed the outline, write the first paragraph and take another break. As you work through the various chunks, the task becomes more and more manageable, and before you know it, you’ll be done.
7. Break up the page
No one looks forward to reading a dense block of text. Rather than overwhelm your readers at first glance, try to break up your text so that each paragraph represents one concise idea.
This is especially helpful in blogging, where you want your piece to flow like a “greased chute,” with each sentence enticing the reader into the next.
8. Kill your darlings
The popular writing dictum states that even great writers need to learn to cut their favorite sentences. In short, just because you think something sounds good, doesn’t mean it’s essential to your point. Before you hit send, give your piece a critical read. Comb through each sentence and ask yourself, “is this sentence essential to proving my thesis?” If the answer is no, it’s time to hit delete.