Want to be a better business professional? Learn these best 19 business writing skills to excel!
In the business world, professionals are constantly in communication with one another. They send emails, proposals, reports, and even direct messages.
Business writing skills are vital for a professional to do their job well, yet many graduate college or start their careers lacking these important abilities. Business writing communicates with coworkers, organizational leadership, clients, or other stakeholders about the business and its operations. It needs to instruct, inform, persuade and help create transactions. Above all, it must be clear. Solid business writing skills will take you far in your career.
While you can take a business writing course to help you learn how to write for a business setting, you may not have the time or money to invest in such training. You can learn to communicate well in business with a few helpful tips. These strategies will
- 1. Write with Purpose
- 2. Avoid Buzzwords and Jargon
- 3. Remove Emotion
- 4. Limit Adverbs
- 5. Keep It Short
- 6. Organize Your Thoughts
- 7. Craft Your Writing Concisely
- 8. Know Your Audience
- 9. Use a Professional Tone
- 10. Narrate in Active Voice
- 11. State Facts, Not Opinions
- 12. Remove Grammar Errors
- 13. Show Confidence in Writing
- 14. Keep Formatting Simple
- 15. Showcase Adaptability for Different Writing Types
- 16. Maintain a Human Tone
- 17. Stay Consistent
- 18. Compose a Call-to-Action
- 19. Complete a Final Edit
1. Write with Purpose
In the business world, having a clearly defined purpose in everything you do is essential, and writing is no exception. Purposeful writing starts before you start writing. First, you need to know why you are writing and use your business communication skill to clearly show that purpose in your writing. Purposeful writing helps you create written communication that gets to the point in fewer words. Time is of high value in business, so getting to the point quickly is helpful.
2. Avoid Buzzwords and Jargon
Every industry has its buzzwords and jargon. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a buzzword as “An important-sounding, usually technical word or phrase often with little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen.” The definition of jargon is “The technical terminology or characteristic of a special activity or group.” Good writers can convey meaning without these unnecessary or sometimes confusing words. Examples of business buzzwords include:
- Low-hanging fruit
- Circle back
- Outside the box
- move the needle
- Deep dive
- Bottom line
- Holistic approach
- Company culture
- Growth hacking
Acronyms can also be a type of jargon or buzzword to avoid unless they are well-known in your industry. Instead, use more precise word choices, or leave these terms out of your writing altogether.
3. Remove Emotion
Business writing is not emotive writing. While some types of business writing do focus on persuasion, you will use facts and confidence to persuade, not highly emotional language. That does not mean you can’t explain your enthusiasm or excitement in your writing. Just be careful that emotions and emotional words do not drive the communication, and opt for simple sentence structure and clear, factual communication.
4. Limit Adverbs
Adverbs are words that modify verbs as well as other modifiers. If you use a strong verb, you won’t need an adverb to modify it. Read through your business communication, and see where you can limit the use of adverbs. For example, you can say this:
- The customer shouted at your team member.
The adverb “loudly” is not necessary to convey the appropriate meaning here. Shouting is loud so that you can say:
- The customer shouted at your team member.
5. Keep It Short
Both sentences and paragraphs in business communication should be short and straightforward. Use simple sentence structures and avoid run-on sentences at all costs. If you can say something in fewer words than you chose, revise it to be the shorter version. Long, drawn-out communication is not appropriate in the busy business world. If you have a long paragraph or email that you need to send, look for a way to break it up. Smaller chunks of text are easier for the reader to digest than long ones.
6. Organize Your Thoughts
When you write academic papers, you usually start with an outline. The outline helps you organize your thoughts into a clear, well-thought-out pattern. It would help if you did the same thing with business writing. Even if you do not create a formal outline, make sure you organize the ideas. Typically, for business communication, you will start with the most important information or the purpose of the communication, followed by the facts or additional information the reader needs to know.
Keep less important information towards the end of the communication. Organization of your thoughts also means using transition words as you move from sentence to sentence. This creates a sense of cohesion and flow in your piece. In addition, it makes the meaning easier to absorb.
7. Craft Your Writing Concisely
Keep your writing style clean and concise. Use strong communication skills to say what you mean clearly without unnecessary words. Concise writing is important in business because the reader typically does not have much time to read a document, especially a business email. Therefore, they need to be able to scan through the business document to get the information they need without delay.
8. Know Your Audience
Effective communication, whether spoken or written, requires knowing your audience. Knowing your reader tells you whether or not the reader will understand a particular phrase or terminology, and it will help you reach them with your meaning. Knowing your audience helps you choose the tone and vocabulary to convey your meaning more easily. It will also allow you to set forth the proper level of professionalism that the audience expects from you.
9. Use a Professional Tone
Effective business writing is not going to be highly personal. While you can convey a friendly tone, you must maintain professionalism. Sometimes this comes with writing training, but often it comes from experience. Consider reading your piece out loud after you finish writing it. Do you convey a friendly but professional voice, or does it sound like you are talking to a good friend? Then, spruce up your writing, eliminating contractions and slang terminology to make it more professional sounding.
10. Narrate in Active Voice
The active voice involves the subject of a sentence performing the action of the sentence. Therefore, writing in an active voice creates stronger and more concise sentences. The opposite of the active voice is the passive voice, and you should avoid it when possible in your writing. Here is an example of a sentence from a business email that uses passive voice:
- The letter has been sent to all departments.
In this sentence, the letter is not doing the action (sending). Thus, it is in the passive voice. Rephrase it by saying:
- Tom sent the letter to all departments.
This says the same thing but indicates who sent the letter. It also conveys the meaning with fewer words and is a stronger sentence. You may have times when the passive voice is your only option, but avoid it when you can.
11. State Facts, Not Opinions
Your opinion is less important in business communication than other communication forms. However, you will likely have better results if you state facts backed with data in your communication. You may face times when you need to state your opinion in your business communication. In these instances, make it clear that the reader is reading your perspective and opinion, not a known fact. This disclosure will help the reader make informed decisions about the information you present.
12. Remove Grammar Errors
Good business writing must be free of fundamental grammar mistakes. Sending business communication with grammar errors makes you and your organization look less professional. Therefore, whether you are engaged in email or report writing, proofread carefully to reduce the number of errors. If writing is not your most vital skill, you can use a grammar checker, like Grammarly, to assist. Remember, though, that even the strongest grammar checker relies on technology to do its job. Always proofread for yourself before sending any piece of business writing.
13. Show Confidence in Writing
An effective email or newsletter for a business setting will convey a sense of confidence. You can learn to write confidently by changing your vocabulary and avoiding the passive voice. Keeping your writing direct and strong will convey a high level of confidence. Confidence in your writing will also make it more effective. The reader will feel more trust in you and your ability to help them with their business need if your writing feels confident.
14. Keep Formatting Simple
Keep the formatting simple when writing a business letter, memo or report. Headings and subheadings can help guide the reader through the information but avoid complex formattings like fancy fonts and excessive use of footnotes. Remember, you want to craft a work that the reader can quickly scan to get the necessary information. So use short paragraphs, sprinkle in graphics where appropriate, and use professional fonts in a size that people can easily read to avoid frustrating or confusing your readers.
15. Showcase Adaptability for Different Writing Types
Business writing includes many different types of writing. As a business writer, you may need to write:
- Social media posts
- Blog posts
- Direct messages
- Business letters
Know how to adapt your writing style to match these different communication platforms. For example, a report may have lengthier paragraphs than a business email, and a social media post will allow more personal language than a business letter.
16. Maintain a Human Tone
While professionalism is important, you still want your writing to convey a human tone. Stick to everyday vocabulary that you would use when speaking to a client. Keep a pleasant, upbeat tone in your writing. One way to know if you have kept your personal touch in your writing is to read it aloud when you are done writing a piece. If it sounds like it flows well and does not feel too elevated when you read it out loud, then it is probably friendly enough.
17. Stay Consistent
One of the more challenging business writing skills to embrace is consistency. Your business is a brand that needs to have a consistent, clear voice. Better business writing involves keeping a consent voice in everything you write for your brand. Often, a business will create brand guidelines for its writers. Learning how to study this document and apply it t your writing will make it more consistent and make you a better writer.
18. Compose a Call-to-Action
Most business communication requires a call-to-action, which is a statement that indicates what you want the reader to do. If you write a marketing piece, the CTA would be to call for a sample, demonstration, or purchase. If you are writing an email, you may ask the reader to send a reply. If you are making a presentation, your CTA could ask the audience questions. The CTA must clarify to the reader what you want them to do with the information you presented. Therefore, it must be concise and direct. It should not leave any question in the reader’s mind about what needs to happen now that they have read what you wrote.
19. Complete a Final Edit
Finally, on all business writing you complete, perform a final check for two things: clarity and brevity. First, read through your piece to make sure it is clear. Then, read it as if you did not know the topic. Do you convey what you need to convey? Next, read through the piece to ensure it is as brief as possible. Have you included all the essential information but nothing more? Keep only words and sentences that are important to the meaning of the communication. Eliminate as much as possible without changing the piece’s meaning, and you will be ready to send your final draft to the intended recipient.
When editing for grammar, we also recommend taking the time to improve the readability score of a piece of writing before publishing or submitting
If you still need help, our guide to grammar and syntax explains more.