10 business writing principles to help professionals excel

December 08, 2013 | Blogging, Writing

When was the last time you enjoyed reading a business document?

Let’s face it, business writing is boring. In most cases, business writing is so dense it is impenetrable. Those are sweeping but warranted statements.

Very few business people know how to write, and most of them are quick to admit that.

Compounding the situation is that they have no idea why they are such poor writers, meaning they cannot even begin to do something about it. A big part of that answer to that problem is embedded in the following 10 business writing principles.

  1. State your objective. How often have we read the title or opening sentence of a memo or other business document and decided to read no further? Readers are lost when the point of our communique is delayed or confused.
  2. Know your audience. Before we start writing it is imperative that we ask ourselves two questions. 1) Who will read this? 2) What do they need to know? Then write directly to that audience.
  3. Write from the reader’s point of view. This goes hand-in-hand with knowing our audience. When we know our audience we write from their perspective or point of view, not ours.
  4. Stay on topic. Writers often veer off subject — that includes getting too detailed with the information being imparted, or digressing into related but superfluous information.
  5. Give conclusions first, evidence second. Many professional writers, especially those with science training, tend to withhold their conclusions until the end of the document. A conclusion delayed is usually a conclusion that never lands in the minds of the intended recipients.
  6. Use simple sentences. When you use a simple sentence structure (such as the subject/verb/object construction) your readers will be able to follow through even the most dense passages.
  7. Use strong, active verbs. Sentences often lie inert on the page. Flimsy sentences are the result of weak verbs. By contrast, good writing jumps off the page with vivid, active verbs.
  8. Focus on people. People-focused writing is far more interesting and influential.
  9. Do not use industry jargon, nor the phrases and clichés common to your industry. That makes us all sound repetitive and dull by stripping our writing of freshness and clarity.
  10. Format to emphasize major points. Use formatting techniques such as lists, subheads and separate paragraphs to emphasize your major points.

There is much more to be learned about each of these points. My business writing workshops tackle all of these issues and many others. Call me (925-449-1040) or write to me (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) to schedule.

Mike Consol teaches public speaking, PowerPoint presentation skills and business writing to companies and business professionals in the Oakland-San Francisco-San Jose Bay Area. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 925-449-1040.