Author: Alastair Kane
So you got through university, survived essays, dissertations, endless papers – you’re about ready to never write again, right? Well (and I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this), I’m afraid it’s not over. In fact, it’s only just beginning, as good business writing skills are the keys to modern business excellence.
Organizations need ever-increasing amounts of written content (proposals, reports, guides, manuals, articles, social media content, email, and other correspondence) to inform audiences – and that content needs to be clear and comprehensible in order to be effective. Your job as a writer of that content is to guide readers and support them by providing easily understandable information.
But before you collapse into a (professional, of course) writing heap, there are points you can focus on to improve your skills and make content more effective:
1. Acceptance. Remember that writing is challenging.
First of all, helping readers understand points – and with interest – is no easy task. Battling time restrictions to research, write, and ensure you understand the subject yourself takes time and practice, so expect to face a few difficulties along the way (yes, even you, English graduates!). Never be afraid to ask for help or proofing assistance.
2. Balance. Find the balance between concise and courteous.
Maintaining brevity is the quickest route to courtesy – considerate business writing respects reader time constraints and reflects their likely level of technical understanding (remember, there was a time when you didn’t know what all those acronyms meant either!).
Say only what you need, nothing more, and always edit to reduce repetition and excess text, while exchanging complicated terms for simpler shorter ones. If you feel it’s appropriate to minimize jargon for non-expert readers, be careful not to slip into condescending or overly simplified language.
3. Clarity. Keep it clear and coherent.
Your work should not need to be re-read for comprehension. Nobody likes a confusing document! Right from the first sentence, to full paragraphs and pages, business writing should be coherent, fluid, and make sense to the end, in order to transmit points logically and effectively. Ensure all writing, even the shortest text such as emails and social updates, are crystal clear for best impact.
4. Consistency. Make sure you are correct and consistent.
Poorly spelled writing, full of grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes, typos, and factual inaccuracies will not inspire trust, understanding, or transmit authority, and will make you seem unprofessional.
Your work must maintain high standards of consistent correctness throughout, so check facts to ensure you’re producing a reliable, informative source, as well as a clearly understandable one. Visual consistency should be considered too; formatting, font, and style can be everything. You don’t want to present a disorganized and messy document!
5. Proof. Ensure it is complete and checked.
Perhaps the most important skill to hone, proofing, revising, and editing work is just as important as writing in the first place.
So before you breathe a sigh of relief and send that report off, check it’s actually finished and contains all the information required. Then check, check, and check again for errors; editing to improve readability, prevent confusion, and save time. Rushed and incorrect copy doesn’t just look unprofessional, it can lead to substantial misdirection, so don’t just glance through, and always ask for proofing and editing help with longer, more important documents.
Though it sounds a daunting task, using these skills and points throughout the creative process will earn you more responsive readership, and give you better success in business environments. Enhanced writing skills are your ticket to success!