5 Tips for Effective Business Writing
Updated: Jan 20
The purpose of business writing is to distribute information that is clear and direct. In the workplace, people do not have time to sift through long sentences or extravagant vocabulary. They want to quickly find and comprehend the information they need to make decisions or take action. Whenever possible and when appropriate, use the KISS rule—Keep it Short and Simple.
Business Writing Tips
Use the following tips to compose detailed yet concise business documents.
1. Use plain English. Write complete, grammatically correct sentences that are logical and easy to understand. Unless you are an accomplished writer with a flair for sentence variety, use a straightforward subject-verb-object-(complement) sentence structure.
Example of Concise Writing:
(Wordy): A decision was reached to postpone the luncheon.
(Concise): The committee decided to postpone the luncheon.
2. Keep your sentences and paragraphs as short and direct as possible. Sentences of a reasonable length consist of 15-20 words maximum. A paragraph containing 3 or 4 sentences is fairly short and works well with memos, emails, letters or shorter writings. A mid-length paragraph equals 5-7 sentences, and a paragraph with more than 8-10 sentences is considered to be long.
Long Sentence Example (21 words):
Paul Rogers is a marketing manager in the state of Tennessee who spoke at the Chamber of Commerce mixer last week.
Shorter Sentence Example (16 words):
Paul Rogers, a marketing manager from Tennessee, spoke at the Chamber of Commerce mixer last week.
3. Delete excess words and phrases. Getting absolutely clear on what you want to say helps to eliminate unnecessary words. You might need to brainstorm or discuss the message you want to communicate before you start writing. Once you get your thoughts down on paper, you can easily see how to cut the fluff from your documents.
Example of Excessive Wording:
It should be noted that the recommendations contained in this document are based on the results obtained from various focus groups.
Example of Concise Wording:
The following recommendations include feedback from various focus groups.
4. Include useful headlines and subheadings to guide the reader. Attention-grabbing titles, headlines and subheadings should be short, relevant and interesting enough to lead readers to key information, especially in longer documents. For more examples, see the Business Proposal and Report samples in Chapter One, "Types of Business Documents" in the book, Creative Business Writing.
Examples of Titles:
Task Force Report (Plain)
Recommendation to Freeze Retail Product Prices (Better)
5. Avoid unfamiliar corporate jargon. Most business industries refer to specific acronyms, processes and vocabulary that are unfamiliar to most people on the outside. For the sake of clarity, define terms and use words that external readers can easily understand.
Examples of Jargon:
render non-viable = to kill
negative economic growth = recession
the economically marginalized = unemployed
environmental hygienist = a janitor
Excerpt from the book Creative Business Writing, Chapter 2: Effective Business Writing. Get your copies today!
Ashan R. Hampton is a long-time English instructor turned entrepreneur. She is also a proud graduate of the Donaghey Scholars Program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock under the direction of Dr. C. Earl Ramsey, Emeritus. Through her company, Onyx Online Education & Training, she offers online writing courses and print books for academic and professional development to individuals and corporations. She is also a prolific published author of several books on a variety of topics. To find out more about Ashan's work, visit www.arhampton.com.
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