Hundreds of emails every day, reports, proposals, memos. The working routine of many people today relies on writing, even in tech or financial spheres. With so much time being spent on official communication it is especially disappointing to get critical comments regarding your business writing skills. Or to have ideas of your documents severely misunderstood again and again.
But the good news is that writing is a skill, not a talent to be born with. And the first step towards improvement is acknowledging the need and place for growth. Like any other skill, business writing is a complex matter that requires effort on several levels. Improving your performance on all these levels will bring your business writing skill to the high standards you desire.
Table of Contents
1. Subject matter – Be an expert in the topic you’re writing about
The first thing a reader would notice, before understanding all the ideas of your writing, is lacking expertise in what your text is about. Even the most exquisite language and extensive vocabulary wouldn’t be enough to cover big holes in your knowledge of the basics and nuances of a subject. Curiously (and unfortunately) people tend to use more colorful adjectives and write longer sentences to camouflage their being on unknown ground.
If this is ever a case for you, we’d recommend either to be honest and limit your writing to what you perfectly know or get a crash course on your topic. The latter won’t help with seasoned readers of a document but may be sufficient for more routine communication. Let’s all be grateful for the Internet and search engines allowing everyone to do their research at a lightning speed.
However, even top-notch experts can sometimes present their thoughts in a manner that can be misread as confusion or uncertainty. So, it’s important to always have a dry gist of your ideas in your head or on paper before starting to write a more comprehensive document. Such tools as bullet lists or mind maps for concepts outlay could be of great help for more visual thinkers.
2. Goal setting
There is no point in writing any formal text until you have a clear vision of the aim you have in mind for the document. Imagine a resume writer drafting the same CV regardless of the job applying to. What are you trying to achieve? Who are your prospective readers? These are the most important questions that may save a document even with the poorest grammar your company has ever seen.
What are you trying to achieve?
If no specific goal exists for a document, it should never be written. It sounds self-explanatory and basic, but often corporate culture and bureaucracy dictate activities with traditional or ephemeral value. Some midterm reports that nobody reads due to the lack of time and waiting for a more general annual report. Or newsletters sent to partners who rarely open such emails.
Your important document that costs hours of writing and weeks of preliminary work could create an impression of such irrelevance as above mentioned communication relics too without a goal that underlies every sentence and every point in your text. This may be especially disadvantageous for very important documents. If it’s your case, consider applying for help from professional copywriters or cv writing services.
Who are your prospective readers?
Try to put yourself in the shoes of recipients of the document you’re writing. Do shareholders have time or interest to read in detail about the company’s extracurricular activities? Will laymen understand the complex lengthy descriptions of the technical process of a product manufacturing? Probably not.
Keep in mind an image of a person you’re sending your document to. Define what is important for them and what reaction to your text you desire to receive.
3. Structure and format – Make use of visual impression
We’ve already mentioned mind maps for planning content subject-wise. This tool is helpful for structuring your document too. Break your text into parts referring to specific subject aspects and assign necessary subheadings for each of them. Go from general to specific – thus you show the map of territory first before drawing a route.
It may sound strange, but people evaluate any text even before actually reading it. Our eye movements are fast to look over the page and gather the preliminary information for our brain to start processing. Narrow margins, weird font, lack of indents create an expectation of a dry lengthy text, boring from the start. Just try a mental experiment. Close your eyes and recall any article or document you’ve recently read with pleasure. How did it look visually?
A recipe for an appealing document is based on proper formatting. Use standard (or company-approved) font and size in your text editor avoiding any beautiful but difficult-to-read fonts. Leave lots of white space on a page – it will help people to focus and not get overwhelmed with numerous lines. Bold font for headings and subheadings works great but avoids applying it to any important aspect in each paragraph. Try to regard your document as a well-designed website layout – eye candy, not an eyesore.
4. Language – Master Laconic Style before Getting Philology Degree
Most of those struggling with business writing suppose they are bad at formal style or logic of narrating. Very often the cause lies in a simple fault – love for long sentences. However simplistic it sounds, fixing this one aspect will positively influence the tone, grammar, the logic of your texts. But it’s not easy.
As we’ve discussed already, sometimes we cover our professional weaknesses with many words. But other times we just can’t stop in our fluid thoughts and transfer them on paper as they are. Disciplining our minds is a lifelong journey, though training ourselves to distill the crucial value out of mental muddy waters is a more achievable goal.
Start with a simple rule. One thought – one sentence. Then look over your older documents and cross out any word you now find unnecessary for understanding. Highlight in red fancy words you’ve put just for a stronger or smarter impression. Ban those from your vocabulary.
And what about grammar? Yes, if your issues lie there, you could refresh your knowledge. Or try using efficient spell checkers, like Grammarly, to proofread documents before sharing. It could also help you to see your most common errors highlighted for more targeted schooling.
But the beauty of the laconic style is the shorter the sentence, the better your grammar. Fewer words – more meaning, fewer mistakes.
Working on your business writing skills may be a challenge. But don’t be self-conscious. You can do this with the step-by-step approach we’ve presented. Conquering substance, setting clear goals, using proper formatting, and limiting your word count would bring your writing to the levels of your ambitions.