Getting down to business
We’re bombarded with words, all day, every day – e-mails, brochures, reports, letters, ads, speeches, articles, PowerPoint presentations – so you can’t afford to let your business communications get lost in the crowd.
A poorly written business document will convey a negative impression about the person who wrote it or the company for which it is written.
In most businesses, a big part of any employer and employee’s day is taken up with communicating with others – most often in writing. Everything from emails to business letters and sometimes there’ll be a request to write presentations, memos, proposals, business requirements, training materials, promotional copy, grant proposals, and a wide range of other documents.
Business writing doesn’t have to be arduous or complicated, especially if you follow these five top tips to getting down the pointy end of business writing.
1. Less is more
In business writing, as in most other kinds of writing, being concise and getting to the point is important. Ironically, as written information becomes more important to the smooth functioning of businesses, people are less willing to read. Even mainstream press such a newspapers and magazines are trimming the fat from their stories to keep their readers engaged. In business writing, it’s just as important to use words sparingly, cut out the florid prose, and avoid long, meandering sentences.
2. Be direct
Business writing is all about looking your reader in the eye and having a ‘straight-up’ conversation. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing for an external customer or an internal document – don’t be afraid to give instructions directly. Giving direct instructions means there is no room for error or misinterpretation and readers will appreciate you recognise their time is important.
3. Don’t use jargon
Never assume your reader knows a specific term or acronym just because you’re around it all day. The key is to explain it the first time you mention it, and not at all after that. Too much bizspeak and too many acronyms can make your writing sound disjointed and incomprehensible even to an audience that may be part of the industry.
4. Start at the finish
People feel tempted to build the building blocks in a paragraph or long copy piece. However, business people are busy and they want to know what the point of any communication is from the beginning. Start with the conclusion first and then put in the supporting facts.
5. Remember the 5 Ws (and the H)
Your communications should answer all the questions relevant to your audience: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? For example, who is this memo relevant to, what should they know, when and where will it apply, why is it important, and how should they use this information? Use the 5W+H formula to try to anticipate any questions your readers might ask, too.