Are you spending more time writing than ever — emails, online posts, and work documents? Have you ever thought, “What’s the point of this email?” Do you think people make judgements based on your writing skills?
You probably answered “yes” to all of the above: You’re writing more than ever before, your writing may tend to wander from the main point, and people constantly make judgement calls on your character and competence based on your writing abilities.
Great writing skills give you an edge in your career. Here are six components of effective business writing.
First and foremost, ask yourself, “What’s my point?” After you’ve thoughtfully answered that question, your structure should follow. It’s imperative that you think through your message before you start typing, not after. That’s where things get wordy and points get buried. For effective business writing, start with structure for clear messages.
2. Word Choice
It’s easy to get hung up in the jargon of your expertise. Choose simpler words for quicker understanding. Don’t opt for “utilize” when “use” will do the trick. Your objective is to convince your readers with your ideas and clear writing—not impress them with your vocabulary.
Do more words make your message clearer? Rarely. More words often merely dilute your point. Yes, you need to back up your point, but most people use too many words and end up with sentences that are too long, requiring re-reading.
Does good grammar matter? Some say it doesn’t. But when grammar is bad, doesn’t clarity suffer? It forces the reader to stop and figure out the sentence. Bad grammar reflects poorly not only on you as an individual, but also on the company for which you work. It’s the foundation of effective business writing.
Writing today is conversational. And since there’s no voice or body language to assist in communicating the written message, we often need to add some warmth and personality to our writing. Establishing a clear and appropriate tone will help avoid miscommunication.
It’s often said that things aren’t written, they’re rewritten. And it’s true because writing is a process including multiple levels with multiple drafts and often multiple editors. I know we’re all in a hurry and we’re short on time. Take time to proofread. Your reader, and your image, will appreciate it.
Effective business writing doesn’t just happen. It’s a science and an art that requires consideration, dedication, and practice. Follow these guidelines and you’ll not only be understood, but also persuasive.