Better Business Writing
When you write, you are talking to your readers. But the writing is successful only if the reader understands your language.
“Whenever you write, whether it’s a formal letter, an e-mail or a text message, your reader must be able to understand what you’re conveying, so it’s essential your writing be clear, organized and direct,” says Dee Dukehart, co-author of The Communication Path.
Plan first, then write
To plan what you need to write, put yourself in your reader’s position. Which of the five W’s -- Who, What, When, Where and Why -- should be included? Never assume your reader already knows the information, Ms. Dukehart says.
Next, write a draft. Don’t edit as you go along. Your thoughts will be much more powerful if you allow them to flow.
Finally, after you’ve written a first go-round, you can edit, using the following guidelines.
Capture your reader’s attention
Everyone is inundated with both e-mail and paper, so your first step is to make sure your written message is noticed and read. Your readers will ask, “Why should I take the time to read this?” It takes only one uninteresting first sentence for the reader to find an excuse to ignore your correspondence.
“Since people remember best what they read first and last, you need to start strong and end strong,” says Ms. Dukehart. “So start with your first most important point and end by reviewing your first and second most important points.”
Organize with headings
Your reader must be able to grasp the concept you want to get across or you won’t keep his or her attention.
Use headings and subheads to make your writing more reader-friendly. Some people like to read every detail. Others like to scan their reading material. Using subheads will help the scanners get your most important information. Create interesting headings and subheadings so people will be drawn to read what you write.
Vary sentence length
“When you speak, you use some sentences with four words and other sentences with 12 words. Your writing will be more conversational if you vary the length of your sentences,” says Ms. Dukehart.
Use active voice
Write in active voice instead of passive voice because it’s more interesting. When you write in active voice, the subject performs the action represented by the verb.
Active voice: “Mary will present the sales report.”
Passive voice: “The sales report will be presented by Mary.”
Watch your grammar
Pay attention to grammar and use it correctly in everything you write. Don’t just count on the spelling and grammar tools on your computer program to do your editing. Keep a grammar book handy at your desk, or do a Web search for sites that answer grammar questions.
Remember, whether you’re writing a letter, sales report or staff memo, your prime concern is to get your message across by having a clear, concise and caring written communication with your readers.
“Your writing reflects your competence,” says Ms. Dukehart. “Make sure people have the best impression of you through your writing, even if it’s just an e-mail.”