10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Business Writing Skills
... for establishing what and how you will write:
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"Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing.”
Think about how people read. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip - the long paragraphs that have more to do with what you want to say than what the reader needs to hear. Always keep your reader in mind.
And if you can’t write an email that’s less than half a page long, then email isn’t the best way to communicate this information.
If your reader has to use Google or a dictionary to decipher what you’re trying to say, they’re going to feel annoyed.
Avoid jargon - it makes you sound pretentious, and it can further alienate your reader. Instead, write the way you talk. Keep it natural and direct.
They are direct, bold and more interesting than passive ones. In an active sentence, the subject performs the action of the verb. In a passive sentence, the subject is letting the action happen to them.
Example: The golfer hit the ball Vs. The ball was hit by the golfer. The first sentence is written in the active voice. The second sentence is passive.
Be authentic and to let your voice shine through in your writing, but also keep it professional. A good way to check the appropriateness of your content is to ask: “Would I be comfortable with this if it was on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow morning?” If this makes you cringe, do some editing.
Don’t leave it up to your reader to figure out what you want them to do with this information. Spell it out, and be specific. For example:
Pro Tip: If you need immediate action on something, talk to the recipient in person.
Use your email subject line appropriately. It is the headline for your email. And a headline’s job is to make sure the body gets read. For this, it needs to be short, direct, powerful, and specific.
Example: “Will you be attending this Monday’s 2 pm meeting? EOM.”
Focusing on one topic per email gives your reader time to process what you’re saying and respond directly. It also helps them organize their emails more efficiently and find archived emails faster.
Never use email to deliver bad news.
If you need to lay off someone on your team, or provide feedback, do it in person. It’s easy for misunderstandings to occur through email. In person, you can communicate with compassion and empathy, and you can use your body language and vocal tone to further convey your sincerity and intentions.
Once you’re finished writing, proofread it immediately. If possible, put it away and read it again a few hours (or a few days) later. Giving yourself some distance from the writing will help you spot mistakes you might have missed on the first read-through.
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The first words you write are the first draft. Writing is thinking. You'll rarely know what exactly you want to say when you start writing.
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Most writing mistakes are widespread, but good writers just get better at spotting them. Some things you'll learn to watch for are:
When you write something, you get very close to it. It is nearly impossible to distance yourself from it straight away to edit properly.
The longer you can leave a draft before editing, the better. Half an hour to two days is enough of a break to edit well. When you do edit, read your work out loud. You'll catch more problems and get a better feel for how everything flows.
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Writing simply, and in an alive tone, using everyday words is more forthcoming and refreshing, than using unnatural sounding words.
Write like a human.
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Be polite. The person who gets your letter will seldom be the one who wronged you. And is unlikely to pass it on to the desired recipient if you are insulting and raging.
Always remember that your job, writing to a friend, is to entertain. That can mean revelling in the odd pratfall. So, don’t just write about the mundane and pleasant things, try to give them the whole picture and make them feel something.
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