Almost everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. When it comes to business writing, many business owners assume that because they can write and have a good standard of English, being able to express themselves professionally through business writing will be no problem at all. Unfortunately, that is where many fall down!
Good business writing is a skill that comes with time, knowledge and experience, but get it wrong and you risk tarnishing your own reputation and that of your business. Whether you’re writing business blog posts, white papers to demonstrate your authority, or any other form of business communication, here are five essentials of good business writing:
Steer clear of jargon
From ‘blue sky thinking’ to ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’, business buzzwords and phrases just don’t have any place in successful business writing. At best, your audience will be rolling their eyes at the cringeworthy terminology, and at worst, they won’t understand what you’re trying to get across.
It’s not just ‘management jargon ’ that could turn your audience off either – abbreviations, specialist terms and acronyms may well be commonplace in your field, but if your audience is non-specialist, don’t use them in business communications. You may know plenty of industry-specific terms which would be fine in certain situations, but business writing isn’t one of them.
Attention to detail
Attention to detail in terms of anything to do with your business is crucial, and what you write on behalf of it, is no exception. Whoever your audience is, you want them to go away with a good impression of your business. You want them to see you and your business as professional, influential and successful, and sloppy writing and a lack of attention to detail definitely won’t give that impression.
So, what do I mean by attention to detail? For a start, you want your writing to be technically correct in terms of spelling, grammar and punctuation. While the spell check function means there shouldn’t be any excuse for bad spelling, it’s important not to forget that some words may sound the same but have different meanings (known as homophones). If you’ve written ‘there’ instead of ‘their’, ‘two’ instead of ‘too’, or even something more complex like ‘stationary’ instead of ‘stationery’, a large part of your audience is likely to be put off.
If you’re not completely confident in your ability to get the attention to detail right in your writing, here’s where getting some outside help is invaluable – whether informally from a family member or colleague, or formally from a writer/proofreader.
While novelists and creative writers can construct detailed and involved pieces that twist and turn this way and that, please remember that in business writing less is more. Writing in a clear and concise way, being careful about sentence structure, not using three words when one will do , and making sure you’re being specific rather than vague, will help your audience understand the point you’re trying to make straight away.
The aim of every piece of business writing is to educate and inform your audience, and if your message isn’t clearly put across, they are likely to struggle. In fact, if they don’t understand your point from the beginning , they may even just give up reading part way through. Reading through everything again once you’ve written it, is a great way of catching unnecessary words, sentences or even paragraphs. You want to make sure that each and every word on that page benefits the overall point you’re making. If one of them doesn’t, cut it out!
It’s essential to proofread anything that is going to be read by anyone else , especially if it’s intended for a large audience that you’re trying to convince of your authority in business. If you let something go out to your customers without checking it first, (whether offline or online),, and there are careless errors, your credibility is going to be ruined. Remember, anything online can be edited later but a hard copy is there forever.
When you proofread any document, you’re looking for everything from spelling and grammar mistakes to bigger picture issues such as the overall structure and readability. It helps to leave your writing for a while before going back to it, overnight if possible, so you can read through your work again with fresh eyes, making it easier to find any errors or sections that don’t sound right.
When we talk about consistency in business writing, we mean throughout everything that is written, as well as each piece of writing. Your business ‘voice’ is important in your overall branding, and once you’ve decided on the tone and voice of your writing, you need to make sure they are always consistent. Ensure consistency in spelling, grammar, punctuation, form and style, and if various people are writing different pieces, make sure they are all checked for consistency by one specific person.
If you want to find out how Grammar for Business can increase your business website’s power to convert visitors into customers, follow this link to request a FREE case study report.