Here are twenty-five top tips to improve and make the most out of your business writing.
Focus on lucidity or clarity
Write so that your readers will understand your intended meaning. Articulate your thoughts so that the average person can understand them.
Use an economy of words
Short sentences are best, unless you’re writing for academic or scientific purposes. Eliminate unnecessary words and repetition. Less is ulitmately more.
Avoid the latest jargon
Write simply. In an effort to impress readers, some writers mistakenly use the latest buzz words or phrases. This won’t impress senior management in the slightest.
It’s best to summarize your points
When writing letters or reports, start by stating your information in a condensed form so that it summarizes your points in an easy-to-understand way. You should anticipate important reader questions. Ask yourself the following: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Also ask yourself: “What do I want the reader to know?”
That means avoiding unnecessary enthusiasm or exclamation points. If you’re writing for a job opening, use the greeting, “Dear…” Close your letter or email with “Sincerely” or “Kind regards.” Even if you don’t know the person, “Regards” will suffice.
Before you complete your writing project, consider how others will view it, as though it might appear in a newspaper or government record. And remember, the internet is forever and endless.
Use correct grammatical structure
Your sentences should be complete, not fragmented, and contain a subject, verb, and object. A writer who is skilled at diagramming sentences will undoubtedly communicate skilfully.
Employ subject-verb agreement
If your subject is singular, your verb is plural (“He wants an agreement”). If your subject is plural, the verb is singular (“They want an agreement”).
Know the right pronouns to use
A pronoun is a word that substitutes for a noun. The most common errors involve the use of “I” vs. “me.” The pronoun “I” is the subject in a sentence (“I want the project”). Me is the object (“Send the project to her and me”).
When to use “saw” vs. “seen.”
“Saw” is the simple past-tense form of the word, “see”, while “seen” is the past participle of “see.” For example, you want to write “I saw the bird” and “I have seen the bird.” (“Seen” requires a helper verb, such as “has,” “had” or “have.”)
Properly insert your full stops when using a quotation
Insert your full stop outside the quote. Journalists however place the full stop inside the quotation.
Here’s how to use “that” and “which.”
“That” is a restrictive clause and it’s used to explain important information (“We don’t sell lorries; cars are the only vehicles that we sell”). More often than not, it isn’t necessary to insert “that.” When using “which”, remember it’s a non-restrictive clause, and it introduces supplemental information that isn’t deemed vital (“Our salespeople have a variety of ways to make good commissions, which is important for their incomes”).
Correctly use prepositions
A preposition is a word that links nouns, pronouns and phrases. A preposition introduces the object of the preposition. In a prepositional phrase, for example, “The plane is on the tarmac.” (“On” is the preposition.) Typical prepositions include above, after, at, by, for, from, in, into, of, on, over, to, under, up, and with. Remember – don’t end your sentences in prepositions.
How to use “a” vs. “an.”
Correct usage depends on the type of words that follow the “a” or “an.” Use “a” when it precedes a noun that starts with a consonant, “He wants a plane,” or a consonant sound, such as “That was a unicycle.” Use “an” before a noun starting with a vowel, “She wants an elephant,” or a noun with a silent “h”, such as “I want £100 an hour.” When the “h” is pronounced, you can use “an,” including this instance: “He was an hysterical complainer.”
Possessives need attention
You add an apostrophe to change your nouns into a possessive form. Here’s how to use a singular possessive: “Did you see the bird’s unique colours?” Plural possessives require that the apostrophe follow the “s” in the noun: “All the colours of the birds were red.” If there is not a question of possessiveness, then there isn’t an apostrophe.
Avoid common mistakes in using “affect” vs. “effect.”
“Affect” is a verb and “effect” is a noun. For example, “It was so sunny, the sun affected my vision when I tried to play football. It had an effect on me playing for a while.”
Save your copy as successful templates for future prototypes
If you’re successful in writing a good piece, save it. Especially, if you sense that you will be writing a similar document for another occasion. You’ll save time in the long run, which is money in your wallet. Be sure, though, to substitute the right information in the new document. Adapt the existing information for your own needs.
Insert a call for action
Don’t end your writing in a vague way. Make it clear what you hope or expect. For example, suggest setting a time or link. Give two options for the reader to consider, and ask the reader to choose the preferred option (i.e. ‘Please visit our store for more information’ – accompanied with a link to your website, opening times and address.)
Focus on correct genders, names and titles
These three are the most important words to readers. Make a mistake with one of these and you have offended your readers. By far, these are the most important words in their vocabularies.
I.e. Sir, Mr, Master = Male; Miss, Mrs, Ms, Madam= Female.
Also bear in mind other common/uncommon uses. These examples can apply to any gender: Dr, Prof, Nurse, Rev., Rt.Hon/ Hon and Royal Titles including Highness, Majesty, Lord, Lady, Duke, Duchess etc.
Be sure to thank the persons for their consideration. Use the term “please” whenever you want or require something. You’ll find that 98% of all communications provide an opportunity for one or both of these courtesies.
Prevent buyers’ remorse
Enhance your odds for success by including a “buyers’ remorse” statement. Remind the readers about the benefits you’re proposing, and how pleased or glad they’ll be.
Contact information in emails
Your signature should include your contact information, for your reader’s convenience to reach you. If you have an idea or product to market, remember convenience is one of the top five reasons for success.
Proofread your work
Of course it’s easy to overlook errors, and it’s important to double check your tone of writing. One trick I use is to read the information aloud. That makes it easy to prevent embarrassing errors. If you write something while you’re in a bad mood, proofreading becomes even more important. Showing anger is not OK in business.
Use your spell check
Misspelled words are not good for your image. As a safeguard, spellcheck is a good service. However, Microsoft Word’s spell check isn’t 100% accurate. In many cases, you’ll have to manually override the software.
Confirm whenever possible
When you receive an email from a co-worker, business associate or strategic partner unexpectedly, don’t leave the person waiting. Respond with a simple, positive confirmation: it’s considered good manners; i.e. ‘Hello, thank you for your email. I will look into that for you.’
Get to the point quickly and direct
This last tip is a MUST. Regardless of who, when, where, how, why and what you are sending, you must estabilsh the key points first and foremost. This will effectively your readers a lot of time, and get your point across quicker.