9 Tips to Improve Your Business Writing Skills
Strong writing skills are absolutely essential for your career success in any industry. As a part of your work, you’ll have to write memos for coworkers, email pitches to potential clients, quarterly reports and even a resume for a job. Based on how well you write, your professional capabilities and competence will be judged.
Do you feel that writing is not your cup of tea? Luckily, this can be easily improved. Everyone can improve their writing skills following our recommendations on how to be successful writer. Today, we will give hands-on tips for making your emails, reports, letters and memos more concise and effective. You’ll increase the quality of your professional communications, save time on writing and gain confidence.
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9 tips to strengthen your business writing
- Write with a purpose and an intent
Before you open a word processor to type a letter or memo, make it clear for yourself what you’re trying to achieve. Are you writing simply with an intent to share new information, or you try to persuade the person to perform some sort of action? What do you want them to do upon reading your message? Having a clear purpose will make your writing more straightforward and to the point, which is always appreciated by busy professionals who receive dozens of emails per day. And considering who your audience is will help you pick the right words and the writing style which appeals to them.
- Plan your writing ahead
Unless you are writing a few lines’ email, create a plan for your writing. Outline the main points you are going to cover and the structure of the text. By doing that, you’ll give your writing a logical structure and make one point naturally flowing into the other. Moreover, you’ll avoid unnecessary details, repetitions and fluff, making your point clear. For example, if you’re writing a cover letter, you’ll need to start with an introduction summarizing the main points of the letter. Then, you’ll present the main information in the letter body and end with a conclusion and a call to action.
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- Short and concise is best
There are types of writing where length, analysis and rich details are appreciated, such as white papers, analytical reports, etc. However, when it comes to traditional business letters, it’s best to be brief and mind that your readers are busy. Let’s return to the cover letter example we’ve mentioned before. For a strong cover letter, it’s enough to write four short paragraphs to convey the idea of what makes you a perfect fit for the position. In most business papers, writing a few paragraphs will suffice as well. Lengthy introductions, metaphors and off-topic stories are appreciated in essays, not in business correspondence.
It’s also important to be concise when taking initiative at work to explain your suggestions or improvements more efficiently.
- Give your writing a skimmable structure
In the era of the internet, people are used to reading the text which is formatted and structured in a way that allows quick scanning rather than reading. So, if your letter or report consists of dense blocks of non-structured text, the reader will find it frustrating to read. Think about the recipient – make your writing easy and pleasant to read. Use subheadings to give your text a structure and highlight the key information in bold or in color. Incorporate lists and use shorter paragraphs (no more than 5 lines in length). These simple tricks will help ensure that your message is read from top to bottom.
- Use professional language
To effectively get your message across, write in plain English but make it sound professional. Avoid the heavy use of emojis, abbreviations, jokes as if you were writing a message to your friend. At the same time, professional doesn’t necessarily mean sophisticated. Don’t put “utilize” instead of “use”. When using industry abbreviations or jargon, keep your reader in mind. For instance, a person external to your professional circle might not understand it correctly. When using abbreviations for a general audience, consider explaining it.
- Remember that professional doesn’t always mean formal
Keeping your writing professional doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to the formal tone and word choice. You might want to be more formal in your resume or when reaching out to a potential vendor you don’t know in person. Yet, when composing an email or memo to a colleague you’re on a good note with, it’s more efficient to be less formal. Vary the level of formality depending on your goals and how well you know the recipient of the document. Being less formal also doesn’t mean speaking to someone as if you were addressing a close friend. It only means using simple words and a bit warmer tone.
- End with a call to action
In most cases, we expect the recipient to do something upon reading a letter. You may write it to request the data for your quarterly report, arrange for a meeting, or encourage a prospect to call you back. To get your message across better, end your writing with a direct call to action. If you’re writing a cover letter, your call to action might sound like “Please contact me in case you need any further information or would like to discuss how I can benefit to the success of your team”. Calls to action minimize misunderstanding in communication, and the recipient is more likely to do something that was clearly explained.
- Use the subject line wisely
When your email doesn’t get opened, in most cases the subject line is to blame. Giving your email a vague title such as “Report” or “Clarification” or leaving the subject line blank is the surefire way to getting it tossed. To streamline the communication and eventually look more professional, always use informative subject lines. Compare the two subject line examples: “Wednesday meeting” and “Quarterly sales meeting: December 18th, 2pm”. Or, “Job application” and “Managing Director Position – Lisa Dou”. Obviously, more detailed examples give the person more information about the letter content and such a letter has more chances of getting opened.
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- Edit and proofread carefully
When it comes to sales pitches to important corporate clients, resumes or reports for boards of directors, grammar mistakes and typos are huge deal-breakers. They signal a lack of attention to detail and may hurt your professional image. Don’t send or share any document without editing it scrupulously first. Put the text aside for at least a few minutes – in this case, you’ll find it easier to spot mistakes. Read what you’ve just written aloud, check it sentence by sentence, and use an online spell checking tool. For the most important papers, consider hiring an editor to make sure that your writing is precise, effective and absolutely grammatically correct.
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