Good writing skills in business have always been important, but in today’s age of technology, they are even more so. Being able to accurately and succinctly convey what you are trying to say is an invaluable skill, especially when your audience is busy and has limited time.
The Way You Write Says a Lot About You and The Company You Represent
With endless resources available to us, making a simple spelling or grammar mistake can indicate much more than it did before the omnipresence of technology. Careless mistakes can give the impression that you don’t care enough to double-check your writing—possibly even leading clients to wonder what else you have been cavalier with. Technology has made everyone a writer, and writing is a very visible skill that should represent your professional goals.
Good business writing is also important because it affects your company’s credibility. If you lack good writing skills, you may seem less intelligent or less qualified than your competition, and if your writing has obvious mistakes, potential customers will not feel confident in paying money for your services. Good business writing inspires confidence in you and your business. With impending deadlines and spellcheck, it is easy to get careless and make mistakes, but in order to establish credibility and trustworthiness, each piece of writing must be well-written.
Your writing is one of the primary mediums in which you will be judged throughout your life. The emails, texts, and reports you send on a daily basis are a physical representation, and record, of you. Over time, these representations build your reputation and impact the relationships you need to thrive in your career.
How Can I Improve my Writing Skills Then?
We’re glad you asked.
1. Think Before You Start Writing
Before you start writing anything, stop and think about what you want and need to say. Ask yourself, “What does this person need to know or understand after reading this email?”
You can also use the “5 Ws + H” that all journalists use when crafting their work:
• Who: Who is my audience?
• What: What do they need to know?
• When: When does this apply, when did this happen, or when do they need to know it by?
• Where: Where is this happening?
• Why: Why do they need this information?
• How: How should they use this information?
2. Keep It Short & Simple
Many of us send dozens of emails a day. In business, it’s one of the primary forms of communication. While the general tips above apply to all documents, social media posts and emails, there are a few tips that specifically relate to email. Here’s one: Keep your message short and simple. It’s amazing how many people will compose a long, complicated email and think that is the best way to communicate – packing in all the details as though they are shipping a box.
It’s far better to keep things light – like a one-page letter or less. The reason is that everyone in business is busy and distracted. A well-written email is often one that sticks to the basics, covering just what needs to be covered. Instead of including every possible variable, use email as a way to start the conversation. When someone gets an email from you, it should be easy to read and provide just the right level of detail.
3. Avoid these common business writing mistakes.
In addition to writing in a simple and concise manner, avoiding jargon or complicated terms, and following an obvious structure, you want to avoid the mistake of amateur writing.
One obvious mistake is the passive voice. Compared to active voice (“the brown fox jumped over the log”), passive voice uses a complex sentence structure that’s hard to read (“the log was jumped over by the brown fox”). This writing mistake is surprisingly common and makes business communication confusing.
For another example, it might seem obvious that you should use perfect grammar in business writing, but too many people write without thinking about the rules. Pay attention to common grammar traps such as mixing up your pronouns (saying “he” and then “they” to refer to the same subject, for example) or using the wrong verb tense (“do” versus “did,” for example). If there are a few that routinely trip you up, make a list of them so you can remain mentally aware of them while writing at work.
One last tip has to do with spelling. It’s easy to write a quick email and hit Send, but it’s wise to always scan through every email and check your spelling. Nothing confuses a reader more than a misspelled word, because it means stopping and figuring out what you meant. As a good rule of thumb, read everything at least once, maybe even twice, before you send it.
If you wish to take more steps to perfect your business writing, we’re happy to help with our award-winning business communications courses:
• Effective Business Grammar Skills
• Proofread to Perfection! Accuracy and Editing
• Powerful E-Mail Techniques
• 7- Step Method to Successful Business Writing: A Skill for Administrative Support Professionals
• 2 Day Effective Business Writing for Busy Executives and Managers
• Reports and Proposals Made Crystal Clear
• Writing in Response to Complaints
• Hands-on Guide to Writing Effective Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
• Technical Writing Masterclass: Take your Technical Writing to the Next level
• The Art of Persuasion in Writing: How to Influence People and Get What You Want