Writing well is vitally important in any field you consider for your profession. Some people claim they are not good writers, but in order to be successful, you must be able to write well, and so it is something that you should continually work to improve. As writing is a craft, it’s an incredibly important communication skill.
For 18 years, I’ve been a faculty member in the Department of Business Communication at Stevenson University where writing is one of our core fields of study. Writing meaningful, well-written material shows care, knowledge, and the capacity to put thoughts into words. Being able to clearly articulate ourselves is an asset to any company. Anything poorly written reflects on you. Carelessly proofed work, grammatical and punctuation errors, and weakly built sentences and paragraphs can lead to a lack of clarity and show a lack of pride in one’s work.
In order to help you better prepare written documents, here are a few things to keep in mind while you develop and fine-tune your business writing.
- Always proof your emails and work CAREFULLY before you send them. Careless typos, mistakes, and ill-crafted verbiage will not reflect well on you as an employee and/or someone who wishes to grow with the company or in his career. Be sure to take the time to review what you’ve written. One suggestion for beginning writers is to craft the prose in a Word document to proof it and then paste it into the email when it has been fully checked. You should also print it and read it NOT on a screen, where editing copy can be easier. Additionally, add the recipients of the email last to avoid sending it to the wrong people or sending it too soon.
- Know your audience. For every single piece of writing you do, you must know your intended audience. Know as much about them as possible, thereby writing information that pertains specifically to that audience. Imagine yourself as the reader of what is received and ask yourself questions that could best be answered in that email, document, proposal, or whatever piece of collateral you are writing.
- Organize your work. One thing that distracts readers from good comprehension of materials is when work is all over the place. Organize your writing by topics, time, situations, suggestions—whatever—and stick with it. Don’t make your audience have to work to understand what you have written by bouncing from one topic to another. Stay organized and focused on each aspect of the content.
- An informal, inviting tone is always helpful to writing, but always remember this is writing created for business. You can certainly adjust the tone, but be cognizant of who will eventually read it, and write for that audience. If the situation calls for a more casual style of writing, feel free to implement it, but don’t go too far. Stick with language that is pertinent to the subject and audience at hand.
- Try not to use too much jargon and leave the trite expressions behind. Write with facts, statistics, and strong information to keep the writing pertinent and viable. Leave behind the flowery language for novels and creative fiction and nonfiction, advertising, and other creative outlets, and write strong content using minimal adjectives and adverbs.
- Keep your audience’s time in mind and edit your work—people do not have a lot of time to sift through business documents. If you keep your audience in mind with all documents you produce, you will write in a concise way so that you do not waste their precious time searching for clues within your documents. Instead, you will eliminate unnecessary information. As Strunk & White recommend, “Omit needless words.”
- Conclude well, and know what you are asking the audience to do. Whether you are asking your audience to take action, consider a proposal, become involved in the company, stay informed, attend a function, understand a new process or program, or approve a new budget, whatever it is, conclude with the proposed action in mind. Don’t leave your audience guessing. It is your job to tell them what you want to tell them and ask for what you need.
Stephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.