Business Writing Principles for Better Writing
What are the best business writing principles for better writing?
In the business world, you need good writing skills for success, and the application of business writing principles helps you succeed. Effective business writing is quite helpful for building the team, communicating with the audience, generating sales leads, and increasing the existing customer base. Also, business writing is different from other types of writing as it is action-oriented and addresses a varied audience. So, how do you make your written communication effective and ensure it stands out from the crowd?
For this, you have to follow some rules, which are known as the principles of business writing. Use the following principles in any business document to help you communicate in an impressive manner and engage your audience. But before getting started, let’s have a quick look at business writing and its types.
What Is Business Writing?
Business writing is written communication conducted with associates, clients, and other business stakeholders. It is a purposeful piece of writing designed to convey relevant information to a reader in a clear, concise, and effective way. Emails, reports, proposals, memorandums, letters, press releases, and a range of other business-related written materials are all kinds of business writing.
The extensive field of business writing falls into four categories based on different objectives, such as:
- Instructional - This type is directional and provides the readers with important information to complete a particular task. It breaks down the task into a series of steps that are understandable to the reader. Examples of instructional writing include memos and user manuals.
- Informational - Its purpose is to provide a reference or record that readers can use in the future. Informational documents, such as reports and meeting minutes help you track progress, predict the future work of a business, and meet legal obligations.
- Persuasive - Most of the time, it is associated with sales. Persuasive writing aims to convey information to the audience and build and strengthen client relationships. Companies use press releases, brochures, and sales emails to focus on a specific item or a service and convince the audience that their solution offers the best value.
- Transactional - Day-to-day correspondence falls under this category. While they vary in their scope and uses, transactional documents help progress everyday operations. Emails and acceptance or dismissal letters are some of the examples.
Principles of Effective Business Writing
The ability to communicate in an effective way through written correspondence is crucial in a business setting in particular. Written communication can take on different forms. No matter what format you use, you must follow some basic rules to ensure your writing is correct and effective. Here are the top seven principles for effective business writing with tips for how you can use them to your benefit:
Consideration means stepping into the shoes of others. Attempt to visualize your readers and their requirements, emotions, desires, and problems. Show that you understand everything by using your words with utmost care. Also, show your readers that you have great regard for them and their interests. If you are working on a business letter, show the reader how the product would benefit them. As you write with consideration, you build goodwill.
Use Respectful Language
Use language which shows you care for the receiver’s dignity and self-respect. Avoid using any word which could appear disrespectful. Be polite and humble in your correspondence with people.
Adopt You Attitude
Adopting this attitude is another approach to show consideration. It involves giving preference to the pronoun you over we or I and assuring your readers that you attach great value to your relationship with them. You should give your readers the feeling that you share common interests and are hopeful to promote them.
Avoid Gender Bias
Using male-oriented language may offend a person you are communicating with if the receiver happens to be female or a group of people. You can avoid this by using gender-neutral terms like chairperson in place of chairman. If possible, you can use a slash and use terms for both genders together, like sir/madam. Use the plural pronoun instead of a singular one. For instance, you can say Everyone must attend the meeting. It's also possible to use a definite article the in place of his/her as in We appreciate if everyone gets the casual leave sanctioned in advance.
Keep Positive Language
Use positive language for effective communication. In case of giving a negative message, keep it as much nice as you could using positive language. Rather than being straightforward and telling an applicant for a job that he failed to get, you can say While we found your qualifications quite impressive, however at this time, we have chosen other candidates to move forward in the recruitment process. This is the reason why business organizations have started using terms like customer service representative cell in place of complaint cell.
Communicate in a Clear Way
Another major rule to follow in communication is clarity. Good business writing has a clear purpose. You must provide a clear message and express it in a language that is easy to understand.
Clarity of Thought
For a message to be clear, the writer needs to have a clear idea of the goal of communication and what one wants to communicate. One should be able to think about the response the receiver could give. Also, it is necessary for the writer to know the most suitable medium to communicate the message and the audience.
Clarity of Expression
The language for the message should be easy so that the intended receiver understands without difficulty. Here are some guidelines that a writer should follow to achieve this goal:
- Choose Appropriate Tone: You should know that it is easy for the audience to misinterpret the tone or the attitude of the writer toward the subject. Avoid sarcasm, and focus on what you say and how your words may get interpreted.
- Familiar Vocabulary: Use the common words that the audience is familiar with and can understand with ease. It is undesirable to use strange and grandiose vocabulary while communicating the message. Using flowery language many a time comes off as forced or pretentious.
- Brief and Simple Sentences: It is ideal to use short and simple sentences which are easy for the audience to interpret. Avoid using complex or wordy sentences as much as possible since they can confuse the receiver. Instead of saying Facilitating ameliorations to our customer service environment, say Improve customer service.
- Use Active Voice: Active voice refers to the sentence structure that positions the actor of the sentence as its grammatical subject. It brightens your writing and involves shorter and clearer sentences than those in passive voice. It is better to say Lucy generated the report today than to say The report was generated by Lucy today.
- Avoid Jargon: In general, the audience will prefer straightforward language over jargon, which is specialized terminology people belonging to a certain field of specialization use. Avoid using jargon as much as possible as it can create problems in understanding the message. Understanding your audience and why they may prefer to use or avoid jargon will help you determine what is most suitable for your writing.
- Use Verbs in Place of Nouns: Change nouns into verbs as much as possible since they give the message in a direct way. Use They will discuss instead of They will hold discussions.
- Avoid Ambiguity: Try to avoid language that a reader can interpret in different ways. It can lead to confusion and misinterpretation. For example, if someone says The chicken is ready to eat, it is unclear whether they imply the chicken is ready to eat something or the chicken is ready for someone to devour.
- Pay Attention to Form: All types of business writing require particular formats. Sticking to standard form eliminates confusion and helps the reader identify the basic purpose of the document in no time. Attention to details of form is quite important in business writing than many other kinds like academic writing.
Courtesy costs nothing but buys everything is an old-age wise saying. Courtesy means politeness and is an attitude that shows respect for others. It is pretty important and advantageous in written communication than in face-to-face conversation. Courteous messages strengthen current relations and make new associates. It helps in building goodwill. Discourteous communication can give offense to the receiver and lead to problematic connections. Being courteous involves a number of things.
You need promptness in answering the communications that you receive. It is unadvised to keep the receiver waiting for long as the information they seek may is often important, and any delay may result in losses.
Use of Politeness Markers
Make frequent use of the politeness markers like please, thank you, we appreciate, etc. They cost nothing but give a lot in return.
Apology for Error of Omission/Commission
If you make any error of omission or commission, apologize once you realize it, no matter if it is unintended, and assure the receiver that you meant something else.
If somebody does you a favor, express your sense of gratitude without delay. Thanks will make them feel happy and promote good relations.
No Humiliating Language
Avoid using language that may offend the receiver. Refrain from using humiliating words like inconsiderate, ignorant, unintelligent, etc.
Keep Your Message Concise
Conciseness is a necessity for effective business communication. It means communicating what you want to convey in the least possible words without impacting the clarity of the message. A concise and compact message saves both time and cost. Concise communication highlights the main message since it avoids using excessive and unnecessary words. A concise message is non-repetitive in nature and is easy to understand for the audience.
To do this:
- Follow the Keep it short and simple formula. Avoid wasting words like writing a whole paragraph to communicate information that you can cover in a single sentence. Use bullet points to cover important information.
- You should avoid including anything in your communication that is needless as it gets difficult for the audience to get the main message.
- Be selective with your information and focus on how to write your message in the best way possible. Avoid wordiness by removing adjectives and adverbs from the message. Use single words instead of long expressions like because instead of for the reason that or indeed in place of as a matter of fact.
- Avoid inessential embellishments and get straight to the point. Instead of writing All of the employees who are new to this company must attend a meeting that is on Thursday, March 10, you should write New employees must attend a meeting on Thursday, March 10.
- Be careful when making a message concise. A brief message which fails to make your intention clear is useless. Besides word count, conciseness is also about being informational. So, the message should be simple without being simpler. This means the limited use of words to convey meaning without cutting out so much that your communication suffers.
Provide Correct Information
Language experts say that there is no shortcut to becoming a good business writer. Good business writing requires consistent practice and continuous struggle. Therefore, it is important to follow the principle of correctness while communicating. Correct communication has these features:
- The message is exact and appropriate.
- It has a significant impact on the audience/readers.
- It checks for the precision and accuracy of facts and figures mentioned in the message.
- It uses the right level of language in the message.
The writer has to ensure correctness in the format, tone, and information provided in the document. You must only use true and correct facts in a document. In case of doubts about the information, it is ideal that you verify the facts before writing because incorrect information supplied to an external party can result in a number of problems.
Correctness in communication also implies that there are no grammatical errors. A business document full of grammatical and spelling mistakes communicates a lot about your company in an implicit way, none of it good. If your writing contains incorrect information or errors, it can result in wrong decisions and losses to the business. It also harms credibility and causes difficulty in establishing the level of goodwill required to reach your audience.
Business writing is definite, specific, and clear rather than vague and general. Concrete communication means it is meaningful and unambiguous. It uses words that are clear and persuasive and strengthens confidence. General messages result in no response. With concrete communication, the audience gets help in understanding the main idea. It is about credibility and building up the writing’s effectiveness for the audience. Following guidelines lead to concreteness:
- Use of specific facts and figures as it adds to the authenticity of the message. Instead of saying We expect the order to reach here at the earliest, say We expect to receive the order by March 15, 2022. Also, say COVID-19 added $105 billion to US commerce in 2020 instead of saying The pandemic has triggered incredible changes in the US shopping industry.
- Use of clear and image-building words.
- Use of action verbs. You can accomplish this by using active voice. Saying Facts show instead of It is shown by facts makes much sense.
Write Complete Messages
Whether these are business letters or client proposals, your business communication must be complete in all respects. The written word should be complete to generate desirable results. Complete communication builds and strengthens the reputation of an organization, helps in better decision-making, and gives additional information that leaves zero questions in the mind of the reader. Also, communication that seems needless becomes important if the information is complete and provided in an effective way. For completeness:
- Consider the mindset of the reader and convey the message suiting it.
- Make sure the message has all the facts needed by the reader.
- Provide all necessary information and answer all the questions asked.
- Make sure you have answered the six important questions – who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- Give additional information, if desired.
Incomplete information is harmful instead as it shows negligence and carelessness of the writer. It gets the reader’s energy, money, and time wasted. Such type of information can irritate the reader and lead to wrong decisions. Professional writers write There will be a meeting on Thursday at 2:00 PM in conference room #4, floor 12. We will discuss our new marketing campaign program instead of just informing employees that there is a meeting on Thursday.
In many ways, writing in the business world is different than other forms of writing. But like all other types, good business writing requires practice and takes time. Though it is daunting to perfect your writing style or use a clear, impressive tone, applying these business writing principles throughout the creative writing process will improve your overall business writing skills. Enhanced business writing is your ticket to success.
If you are new to business writing and are looking to better your business writing skills, we recommend taking our Technical Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of writing technical documentation.
Josh is the founder of Technical Writer HQ and Squibler, a writing software. He is considered one of the top product influencers in the world by Product School and one of the top technical writers. He has been writing software tutorials, manuals, handbooks, and white papers for over eight years. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.