Good business writing is at the heart of successful marketing. Without it you will be at best, misunderstood, at worst, totally ignored. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure your business writing hits the spot.
Write the way you talk
Write readable sentences by writing the way you talk. There is a misconception that good business writing is complex and flowery. It is simply not true. The only people who can ignore this advice are lawyers by virtue of the fact that it is their intention to make everything more complex than it need be, especially as they are paid by the hour to explain to you what they have written!
Use ordinary words
Don’t try to be too clever; don’t use a long word where a short one will do.
Vary your punctuation and sentence length to add life and movement to your writing.
Use the personal pronoun
Use “I” or “we” wherever you can.
Make your point
Make your main point early and make it easy to find. Don’t introduce new ideas until you have thoroughly explained the first.
Make your purpose for writing clear. Say what you have found, address the issue or problem and make a recommendation or provide a solution. Tell the reader very clearly what you want them to do. Never make the assumption that the reader will make the mental leap between the information and what you want them to do about it.
Help your reader get to the point by revealing the structure of the document. Allow them to have control over what they discover and when.
Leave plenty of white space. This can be created by using headings, lists, bullet points and short paragraphs.
Use font types wisely
If in doubt stick to the classic fonts. Don’t litter your writing with bold, italics CAPITALS or underline; it makes the text harder to read.
Wherever possible, remember:
- Use the active voice
- Use ordinary words
- Construct clear, simple sentences
- Concrete not abstract: use examples, metaphors and details
- Informal, conversational style
- Make every word count or get rid of it
- Use just enough punctuation to assist the reader
- Watch your grammar: don’t switch tense.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say
- Don’t use jargon – if you have to, explain it the first time you use it
- Strive to express yourself clearly
- Get to the point fast, or at least allow the reader the option to if they choose to
But most of all have fun with it. Never be afraid to reflect your own personality in your writing and it’s okay to break a few rules now and again!
This article first appeared in Australia’s online magazine for solo business owners, www.flyingsolo.com.au.