Good Business Writing

Good business writing supports every aspect of business, from marketing materials to running effective meetings.

For many the mere thought of writing a letter or memo, soon to be read by your peers, makes your writing hand tremble.

Many professionals develop negative thoughts about their writing skills. Just thinking about filling a blank page can cause 10 acute excuses for writer's block.

Memories of red slashes from college professor's pens, misplaced commas, misspelled words, and dangling participles come flooding back.

Fear not.  This skill that can be learned. Hopefully no lives depend on you writing the "great American novel", but you can learn to enjoy the writing process.

"You learn to write by writing."

--Samuel Johnson

Business writing does not have to be a chore. It simply means communicating clearly, making your point and getting out. No-one gets hurt. 

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Here are 3 Tips of Good Business Writing:

1) Help your busy readers. . . get to the point already.

As a business person, you know you want results. We all have a job to do, a deadline to meet. Right?

People want clear, straightforward, and simple communication.

For team communication, you write to a group of individuals who have their own agendas, responsibilities, time constraints, and problems. They also maintain a method of preferred communication.

Focus on your core concept and connect with the people on a personal level.

If you can't meet people in their realm, they'll ignore your attempts at communication.

Make your sentences clear, direct, snappy, and to-the-point.

Present one idea per paragraph, and try to stay on subject. Focus on connecting with your reader's needs. Make sure you know exactly the information you want them to take away from your message.

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2) What's The Catch? Where are we going? How do we get there?

You want your team to question what you write. You want their brains to activate and engage with the material you present.

Questions are the sign of an engaged reader.

As you draft your business writing, think about how you can engage your team, persuade them to see things from your point of view. Find alignment between the core message of your presentation and the core values of your readers.

Keep your words few, focused, and pushing forward and people will follow. 

3) Write for Clarity

Good business writing presents clear, crisp, and concise concepts. After all, you're not Leo Tolstoy. Get the message across and get out.

Structure your writings to get results, to have people take action, or to stop them from doing something.

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Tips for Clear Writing:

a) Breathe Deep - Shallow breathing starts your fight or flight mechanism.

A clear message equates to a cool drink of water, or a breath of fresh air. Breathe deep and get some oxygen into your O2 starved brain.

b) Start with the intended result. Make sure you relate the consequences and benefits of your message. Keep the end result or action in your reader minds at all times.

c) Give good business writing the time it deserves. You don't need to polish everything. But give your piece the time it deserves and review it before you send it out. I recommend waiting an hour before your review. This resets your eyes and gives you a fresh perspective. This can prevent embarrassment later.

d) Kill your internal critic. Have you ever sat down to write and you can feel the words in your brain wanting to escape? You know your subject matter, but the words come out like squeezing blood out of your forehead?

"This is your internal critic messing with you, he/she is the scourge of all writers and must be ignored completely at all time" Just write, your secret to good business writing.

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Sentence Structure Tips

Keep your sentences simple. Use the sentence structure of Subject then Verb. To make your sentences pop, avoid the words is, are, have, be, and been. These words bore the reader.  When you remove these words, you actually make shorter sentences.

For example above I wrote...

"This is your internal critic messing with you, he/she is the scourge of all writers and must be ignored completely at all time"

Instead, use this better sentence...

"Your internal critic messes with you. You must completely ignore this internal critic scourge at all times. "

Of course you can't always avoid is, are, have, be and been. Just try to minimize the use of these words. When you see them try to restructure your sentence.

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Writing for the Web

Readers read the web differently than they do a book. Many web readers first scan the page looking for interesting material. Next they focus on that material.

Web readers don't like long paragraphs. So keep sentences short and few. One to Four sentences work.

Keep paragraphs at different sizes within a topic. Readers treat a webpage like a picture. Text paragraphs form part the web pages. Different size paragraphs attract the reader's eyes to that section. For example, this section has paragraphs with 3 then 2 then 4 then 1 lines.

Also include actual pictures within the web page.

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