Business Writing: Definition, Tips, & Examples

If you write emails, create reports, produce memorandums, or anything similar at work, that means excelling at business writing is an important skill to have. The problem is that business writing isn’t really taught well or equally during university or even at many companies. As a result, a vast majority of employees learn through trial and error, leaving room for potential costly or embarrassing mistakes to both colleagues and clients.

Though the vast majority of employees would benefit from a business writing course, if a company doesn’t provide or pay for one, few employees take the extra effort to enroll in one. As the next best thing, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 most important business writing tips and examples.

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Business Writing Tips:

Tip #1 – Be Direct and Cut the Fat

It may sound cold but it is merely fact – business writing is direct and to the point. There is no need for frivolous or flowery language. If you can use one word rather than three, then do so. Additionally, your point should be as close to the beginning of your messages as possible.

Tip #2 – Keep Your Purpose and Audience in Mind

Before you type a single letter, you should write with a clear purpose in mind. Your goal should be to cater your business writing in a way that your audience will best respond. Think about the following questions:

  • How much does the audience know? You may have been working on a project for a few weeks but your colleagues likely don’t have the context you do. In such a case, it would be wise to add some background information.
  • How much does the audience care about the subject at hand? There will be times when your audience will do anything else than read the report you’re sending out. In those instances, it will be important for you to write to get them interested from the start by getting straight to the point in an interesting way.
  • What is the audience expecting? If you know your reader is looking for a recommendation, don’t bury it in the middle of an email after several paragraphs. Also try to ensure that you address all the main topics or questions that the audience expects to read about.

Tip #3 – Use an Active Voice

Business is about action and getting things done. The passive voice is like a limp handshake – both dampen your professional aura. For example, take a look at the two sentences below:

  1. Passive – “The meeting with the client will be located at the Hilton Hotel.”
  2. Active – “The client meeting is at the Hilton Hotel.”

In an active sentence, the subject performs the action of the verb. In a passive sentence, the subject is letting the action happen to them. To spot the passive voice, look for forms of the verb “to be,” such as “will” or “was,” in front of a verb.

The difference between the two may seem subtle, but over time, continual use of the active voice makes your business writing stronger.

Tip #4 – Stay Focused

Especially with large and complex projects, there can be a lot to say in your emails, reports, and the like. However, that’s what makes it even more important to stay focused on as few topics at a time.

For instance, if you ask too many questions in one email, you may just get the answer to some but not all of them. This is especially true if you are asking about various projects at once rather than one at a time.

Of course, there are times when you need to address multiple topics at once. In that case, consider dividing them into separate components (i.e. separate reports or emails) rather than having them all in one document.

Tip #5 – Make Sure It’s Perfect by Double and Triple Checking

Unlike many other things in life, there is such a thing as perfection in business writing. Though the content itself may be imperfect, every person is capable of making sure that the details are perfect. This includes word choice, grammar, spelling, and the like.

Whether English is your first or third language, getting important business documents or emails proofread by another colleague or friend is always a good idea. Simple avoidable errors in business writing can cause the audience to question the writer’s attention to detail and question what other mistakes lay hidden in a project or task.

Final Thoughts

Business writing does take time to get used to and master. The good news, however, is that with time and practice, anyone can excel in business writing. We hope these tips were helpful!

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