If you’re just starting your business career or a seasoned pro, these business writing tips will help you take your at-work communication to the next level.
When you’re in a position that requires you to create high-level business communications, it’s key that you constantly work to develop your business writing skills. Whether you’re improving your sentence structure to create good business writing or trying to increase your use of active voice instead of passive voice to increase the clarity of your writing, leveling up your skills can help you create more effective business writing that gets your message across.
Here, we’ll take a look at some tips you can use to create more effective communication and develop better business writing techniques.
1. Know Your Audience
No matter what type of writing you’re working on, knowing your audience is key to using the right communication skills that will get your point across. If you’re writing a memo detailing the latest research changes to your superiors, you’ll take a different approach than writing a quarterly update for board members. When you know your audience, you can tailor your business document to meet them at their knowledge level, whether including the technical terms they’re familiar with or taking the time and space necessary to get them up to speed on the latest changes in your industry.
2. Research Topics Thoroughly
When you’re working to develop a piece of business communication quickly, it can be tempting only to do surface-level research. Instead, take your time to delve into the issues you’re discussing. This isn’t just a smart move to help you become a better business writer–it will also provide you with the information you need when a supervisor or board member inevitably stops you in the hallway to discuss a point from your piece of writing.
If you feel that you need more time than your supervisor has permitted to complete the amount of research your business writing requires, don’t hesitate to reach out to them and explain how pushing the deadline back would support both you and the company.
3. Know Your Purpose
With some types of business writing, the main point is clear. Perhaps you’re writing an update to your team on a specific problem you’ve been working to solve, or you’re providing your board with a financial update for the quarter. These types of written communication have a clear purpose, making it easy for you to stay on track as you write.
For other types of communication, however, it can be harder to get to the point–especially if you’re not sure what the point is. If you’re writing an update to constituents or providing a progress report to your boss, do your best to clarify the points you’re working to cover before you start writing. Your work will be more accessible, and your audience will appreciate your concise approach.
4. Anticipate Questions
When you get to the end of your business writing, take a moment to imagine that you’re a member of your audience. Do your best to assume their level of knowledge about your work. Now, return to the beginning of your writing and try to read it through their eyes. What questions would they likely have? What parts of your writing would be challenging for them to understand? By anticipating questions that your audience might have and working the answers into your writing, you can create a more precise, effective piece of communication.
5. Outline Before Writing
Once you know the purpose of your business writing, it can be helpful to develop an outline before you begin your actual writing work. Getting your main points onto paper can make it easier to dig into the introduction of your writing and can help you decide how much time and space to dedicate to each focus area. If you’re struggling to complete the outline, no worries–even jotting down one or two main points and some supporting details can help get you moving in the right direction when unsure where to start.
6. Avoid Over-Complicating
It can be tempting to show off your industry knowledge when you’re writing for business but resist the urge to overdo the technical jargon when you’re writing. If there’s a simple alternative to a complicated word, use it. When you keep your writing simple, you’re making it easier for your audience to understand your ideas.
While your audience will likely read at a high level, it’s advised to aim for a middle or high school reading level in your work. You’re not trying to teach a college class when you’re sending out a piece of business communication–you’re trying to get an idea across to your audience quickly, efficiently, and makes sense. Don’t worry about trying to impress people in the business world with a fancy vocabulary. They’ll be far more impressed by your ability to articulate your points simply yet accurately.
7. Read It Out
When you read your work out loud, it can be easier to find points with awkward phrasing or incorrect grammar. Often, our eyes skim over these issues during the proofreading process. If you feel comfortable, having a friend read your work out loud can give you more perspective on how your writing will come across to your audience. Try not to be too hard on yourself for simple mistakes when you’re listening to your work–go back and make the necessary corrections before you move forward with sending your communication out to others.
8. Eliminate Filler
It can be tempting to fill up the body of your email or other business communication with filler words, especially if you’re trying to show that you deeply understand the task. In the business world, however, unnecessary verbiage is frowned upon. You’ll want to keep your writing as concise as possible. Ask yourself if your audience is getting the information they need from your communication and if so, end it there. If you need to fill in space in a newsletter or other type of update and don’t have relevant information, ask your supervisor if you can reach out to another department to combine updates.
9. Forget Business Jargon
When you complete your business writing, take a minute to go back and look for words that most people wouldn’t understand. However, it’s no problem if you have industry-specific terms that you can’t change. If you’ve used jargon unnecessarily, take it out and go with a less complicated word.
Buzzwords won’t convince your audience that you know what you’re talking about and can take away from the professional tone you want to strive for in your business communication. You want to make it as simple as possible for the people reading your business communication to understand what you’re trying to say. Keeping your vocabulary simple can make reading your communication more efficient.
10. Ask For Help
If you’re new to business writing, it can be tough to figure out exactly how to organize your business communications. This can be especially true if your writing style is typically more suitable for social media or persuasive writing or if you’ve never worked as a professional writer in a business capacity.
When asking others for feedback on your business writing, let them know you’re not just asking for help with typos. Instead, tell them that you want feedback on making your writing more concise and appropriate for your audience. It’s a smart move to run your first draft of business letters and other communication by your supervisor or communication director, especially if you’re still getting used to your company’s style guide.
11. Commit to Improvement
When you’re just starting business writing, it makes sense that you’ll feel unsure and nervous about whether you’re communicating with your colleagues and superiors in the correct style and format. Like any new skill, it can take time to develop your technical writing. Staying committed to getting better won’t just get the attention of your supervisor–it will also help increase your confidence. Using spell checkers, taking online or in-person writing courses, and using grammar checkers (like Grammarly and the Hemingway editor) can help boost your belief in your business writing abilities.
12. Use a Grammar Checker
A good grammar checker is the easiest way to quickly find and fix grammar and punctuation errors in your reports, emails and business documents. You can install a grammar checker as a desktop app or a plugin for your preferred email writing tool or word processor. It should spot these mistakes almost instantly. Then, you can find and fix more grammar mistakes than the inbuilt grammar checker in your operating system will catch.
Grammarly is one of our top grammar checkers for business professionals. Find out why in this Grammarly review.