1. Your Writing Must Be Crisp and Confident
When looking to type out any piece of business communication, you might be tempted to write as if you are writing up a contract or another legal document. Yes, you need to be professional, but don’t stop yourself from being confident.
Remember, you’re doing this because you’re in a position to be doing this. You know what you’re talking about and have the authority and credibility to say what you want to. Be confident and write as the authority.
When writing, don’t shy away from using words like ‘must’ or ‘shall’. This will make your message seem much more assertive.
Having said that, don’t forget to add this one simple line (or something with a similar effect) somewhere in your piece (preferably near the end).
“If you have any concerns, questions, recommendations, or a point of view to share, please feel free to address the same as a reply to this”
This shows that although you deliver your message crisply, you are open to suggestions and corrections as well, effectively making you seem more ‘approachable’.
2. Be Clear – Leave Nothing to Chance
The thing about business writing is that even the slightest bit of uncertainty can lead to a myriad of problems. Whether it’s an organization-wide email or a sales proposal to one client, the words you use will be open for interpretation.
So when writing make sure that your message is clear. Say what you want to say and do so as clearly as possible.
Let me give you an example to show you what I mean.
Consider the following:
“This email serves to address a recent issue that arose between a few colleagues in the QA department, one that is strictly against the spirit of camaraderie that we uphold here at Company & Co.”
The sentence above seems to address a grim subject. However, if a person is not privy to what happened over in QA, the email will either 1) not catch their interest or 2) pique their interest to the point where they want to know what the “issue” was and partake in gossip, further exacerbating the issue!
Instead of this, write:
“This email serves to address last week’s fallout between some of the QA staff. The management understands that conflicts arise during the course of business, but we believe that this wasn’t how it should have been handled.”
3. Your Messaging Must Be Complete with the When, Where, Why, How and Who
If you consider the example above again, there is one more important consideration to make. Your message must be complete.
The first statement doesn’t do a good job at explaining what it is that went on, when, why, where, or how. What it addresses is the “who”.
When writing, it is easy to forget that not everyone will be as well-informed about the subject as you are – even if it’s just a memo highlighting the employee of the month.
One of the core elements of business writing is that you need to clearly mention every intricate detail of your subject so that the reader feels as invested in the matter as you.
4. Nobody Likes Rambling Messages – Be Concise, Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)
KISS is a simple business management and communication principle; one that is crucial in business writing basically.
By being concise, we mean exactly that. Don’t use redundant phrases or over-explain your point.
A very common mistake that even some seasoned business writers make is using the same word twice in an attempt to drive the point home.
This may backfire. Don’t treat your readers like children.
Some business writing examples for redundancies include:
- “Several different options”. Several and different are the same word here.
- “Postpone to a later date.” Just say “adjourn” in its stead.
- Get rid of the ‘I am writing to inform you’ unless you really don’t have much to say. A one-line letter won’t do you any good either, contrary to belief.
- Don’t emphasize until absolutely necessary. In my experience, it is usually enough to emphasize the subject of your letter, or the pricing structure, if you are mentioning it in a paragraph.
Pro tip: Try one of our trained writers, and experience the expertise.
5. Make Your Point Well by Being Coherent
What good is a business letter or sales email that the recipient can’t even understand? The problem writers often face is that fingers (typing) are slower than the mind (thinking). It is very likely that in your haste, you will write incomplete sentences or not explain your message as much as you should.
Be coherent with your language and how you structure your sentences. Not only that, sort the information, thoughts, ideas, and suggestions in a manner consistent with business writing best practices. The general format to follow when laying out information is to start with the problem, suggest a solution, and then explain why the solution would work.
Let’s say you’re writing to your supplier. Instead of writing
“We conducted a thorough inspection yesterday where we compared the inventory on paper with what we really have and found that some items were missing. Not only that, after further investigation we also found that the last batch you supplied has a few damaged items. The damage ranges from slight chips all the way to complete breakage.”
“Our audit team conducted a stock check yesterday and found that inventory is not only missing, it is also damaged. We would like to schedule a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to resolve the matter.”
The second statement is much more coherent, starting with the problem and ending with a solution – and that too in a concise manner. There is also a sense of courtesy and consideration in it, which I’ll come to in a bit.
6. Credibility Above All Else
When it comes to effective business writing, readers can overlook everything and give you the benefit of the doubt (in the first few instances), except for one thing: factual mistakes.
Business writing is supported by facts (and figures, where applicable), not opinions. When writing, make sure you are only using reliable/credible information that you can back up.
You might be tempted to show off that you know a lot, but don’t risk your own neck just because someone else told you that the inventory is damaged – unless of course, you have the documentation to prove it.
Reference your facts, sort the data in a consumable and friendly manner, and offer an unbiased view of the situation.
For example, if you’re writing a business proposal and claim the market demand for a product without doing actual research, not only will the proposal fall flat on its face – you could lose market credibility.
7. Avoid Ambiguous Language – Your Message Must be Concrete
Writing concretely doesn’t mean writing with firmness and assertiveness. It means that when communicating, you need to avoid using vague words, such as ‘some’, ‘many’, ‘few’, or others.
Where circumstances are not in your control, try to be as specific as you can without inconveniencing the reader, unless, of course, the situation demands inconvenience.
Try to include numbers, dates, timeframes, schedules, and more to make your sentences more ‘concrete’.
Let’s take the example from point 5 above again:
”There are many items in the shipment you sent over that were damaged.”
Instead of this, a concrete way of writing would be:
“We found 70 out of the 100 items within the shipment damaged beyond repair.”
This way, both parties know what the issue is and solutions come to mind immediately.
8. Be Correct – Don’t Throw it All Away
The business world is harsh. If you’re making mistakes in your business writing, you can well be labeled as someone who makes mistakes in other business dealings too.
You don’t want the phrase, “doesn’t even know what he’s talking about” attached to your name.
It is crucial that you pay attention to the details.
For me, some of the most common areas where people make mistakes include:
- Name and title
- Spelling and grammar mistakes (Try to make sure grammar is on point, but depending on whether you’re writing in your native tongue or not, executives don’t have a problem with grammatical errors in most cases. Just make sure the mistake isn’t changing the sentence’s meaning).
- Using the wrong format. Consider asking someone or doing some research about how to format that specific bit of business writing. This is one piece of business writing basic that’ll help you always.
9. Professionalism and Courtesy Go Hand-in-hand
It is easy to unload all your frustration on an employee when writing a warning letter. The same applies when communicating with an aggrieved client or when trying to settle a dispute.
Even if you don’t want to, chances are that you might find yourself including sentences that could be interpreted as negative. It’s all about the tone you use.
Put the reader first and consider their perspective. Your goal with business writing should be to always remain positive. You can do this by avoiding the use of commanding language or false positivity. The best way to do that is to write what you will at first and then re-read what you crafted.
It’s a business writing basic to re-read what you have written at least thrice – but no more than 6 times, or else you risk over-editing. Understand the difference between editing and proofreading. The first couple of times you’re re-reading, you’re doing so with the purpose of editing. The last one should be proofread.
Instead of writing:
You must be ready for a meeting by 10 am
We would like to schedule a meeting with you at 10 am. Please let us know if you need any help from us managing your workload for the same.
In the second statement, you aren’t just being courteous about the meeting, but also remaining considerate about their workload, thus being more inviting.
10. Remain Considerate – Think About the Reader & Make It Easy to Read
No matter who you are writing to, what the subject is, or how frustrating the matter is, you need to consider their feelings. Write as if you are giving them the benefit of the doubt and remain considerate in terms of the wordings.
Being considerate isn’t just limited to that, though. You also need to consider the format, readability, scalability, and the platform you are using to communicate.
The best way to do that is by splitting what you are writing into paragraphs, with each paragraph highlighting just one idea.
Unlike writing business articles, you don’t have to stick to the three-line rule, but try not to cross the 6-7 line mark, either.