In today’s business world almost everything is entirely information driven. Whether you work in a small business or for a giant corporation, chances are you do and receive most of your communication in writing.
This includes emails, memos, letters, proposals, contracts, presentations and a huge range of other documents.
While most of us have some varied experience in writing,the importance of strong written communication skills is rarely stressed in universities . We know it’s important but most of us fail to understand the future implications of weak writing skills.
By using simple, clear, precise language and following a few basic rules of writing, you can become a better communicator and drastically improve the prospects for your career.
There is no substitute for practise but here are a few tips to get started:
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in business writing is using unnecessary jargon. It may sound important using words such as ‘synergy’ and ‘solutioneering’ but to most people it just doesn’t make sense. While some technical jargon may be unavoidable it’s always best to use as simple language and word choice as possible.
Concise is best
Less is always more. There’s no need to pad sentences out with words such as “essentially’ and “basically”, just say what you mean and say it in as little words as you can. This also means that wherever possible use active rather than passive phrasing. Instead of writing “The meeting was led by Bob” use “Bob led the meeting.”
Check your grammar
Beware of common grammatical errors. Grammatical mistakes are the quickest way to undermine yourself in any form of written communication. Simple errors include confusing “that” and “which” and “affect” and “effect”.
Leave out useless words
Be ruthless when it comes to self-editing. If the word isn’t important then cut it out.
Be professional, not overly formal
There is sometimes a tendency to be overly formal in business communication. While appropriate in some circumstances this type of language can often obscure meaning. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you should ever be too casual. Personal comments or off-colour jokes should not be written at work and never address or sign off on emails with unprofessional phrases. Using “Best” or “Regards” is still the norm and absolutely avoid “xoxo” when it comes to business writing.
It sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many get this wrong. Always check name spelling, title and correct use of a pronoun. Nothing is more uncomfortable than when you’ve been referring to a Mr. Turner as Ms. or Mrs. throughout a document. If in doubt, using gender neutral pronouns like “they” or “their” is perfectly acceptable.
Check once, then again
Just like grammar problems, typos can ruin an otherwise fine document. It’s important to always check then recheck for mistakes such as spelling and grammar. Being too close to something can sometimes trick you into missing mistakes, so the best tip is to come back after a few minutes or get a fresh set of eyes of check it over.