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10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Business Writing Skills

Delivering bad news

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.

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10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Business Writing Skills

10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Business Writing Skills

https://www.moneycrashers.com/improve-business-writing-skills/

moneycrashers.com

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Key Ideas

The value of solid writing skills

  • Being a good writer helps you stand out from the crowd.
  • Repeated writing mistakes affect your reputation and credibility in the future.
  • Your writing is one of the primary mediums in which you will be judged throughout your life.
  • Your writing communicates your thoughts, and it’s important that those thoughts are conveyed in the clearest, most eloquent way possible.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut

"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.

The “5 Ws + H” method

... for establishing what and how you will write:

  • Who: Who is my audience?
  • What: What do they need to know?
  • When: When does this apply, when did this happen, or when do they need to know it by?
  • Where: Where is this happening?
  • Why: Why do they need this information?
  • How: How should they use this information?

Keep it short

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. 

Avoid pretentious words

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.

Use active sentences

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.

Always be professional

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.

Clarify your Call to Action

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:

  • Please send back any edits by 5 pm on Tuesday.
  • Please call this client back by Friday to resolve the issue.

Pro Tip: If you need immediate action on something, talk to the recipient in person. 

The subject line

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.

The EOM technique

If you only need to ask a simple question in the email, use the End of Message (EOM) technique: Write your question in the email subject line and add “EOM” at the end. This saves your reader time because they can quickly reply without having to read the more superfluous text.

Example: “Will you be attending this Monday’s 2 pm meeting? EOM.”

Stick to one topic in emails

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.

Delivering bad news

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.

Proofread

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 draft

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.

The time you put into editing, reworking and re...

Common errors

Most writing mistakes are widespread, but good writers just get better at spotting them. Some things you'll learn to watch for are:

  • Overuse of jargon and business-speak, like "utilize" or "endeavor" instead of "use" or "try."
  • Clichés are stale phrases that have lost their impact and novelty through overuse. If you are used to seeing it in print, don't use it.
  • The passive voice. The subject of the sentence should be the person or thing taking action, not the thing being acted on. "Harry wrote this article," is better than "This article was written by Harry."
  • Rambling. When you are not sure what you want to say, it is easy to phrase it in three or four different ways. A single concise sentence is generally better.
Give it some space

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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Letters Of Complaint

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.

Make plain...

Letters To Friends

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.

Letters Of Condolence
  • You are extending respect and friendship. Write quickly, and preferably by hand.
  • You’ll want to calibrate what you write to your relationship both with the recipient and with the deceased. Make it personal.
  • If you knew the deceased well, sharing a couple of warm memories will let the recipient feel there’s a shared bond.
  • If you didn’t know the deceased, you can make respectful reference to what you knew of them.
  • Use tact. Don’t tell the recipient how they should be feeling.
  • If you’re finding it hard to know what to say, you can acknowledge that; but don’t harp on it.
  • Avoid operatic, or competitive, expressions of grief.
  • Acknowledge, but don’t belabour, the grief and pain they feel.
  • Focus on the individual excellence of the deceased rather than the consequences of the loss itself.
  • Be tactful of their religion even if you don’t believe in it. 

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Tips for Better Business Writing

You can be a good business writer, just by following these five tips:

1. Write as you speak.

2. Read it aloud.

3. Ditch the Jargon.

4. Ignore the English Teacher.

Write how you Speak

Writing simply, and in an alive tone, using everyday words is more forthcoming and refreshing, than using unnatural sounding words. 

Write like a human.

Read it Aloud

If you read your written text aloud, you will realize where it can be worded better, or where to add or remove a comma. You can also let someone else read it.

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