Business Writing Guide
Business communication is a like a stream of information flowing back and forth. A steady flow is the key factor towards achieving your goal for better communication needs. A business-writing guide is a quick and handy tool especially if you are in a fast-paced business environment where concise, accurate and to the point content is always required. Most business-writing guides are a culmination of different business writing courses, workshops, and all have a common goal towards improving communication skills of a business individual.
There are commonly agreed principles that apply to effective business communication and the sole purpose of these basic business guides is to provide knowledge, training, quick reference and resources for professional business communication.
Guidelines for Basic Business Document
Know Your Audience, Draft Purpose, Get an Angle
Understand the purpose of your communication and research your audience and their needs. Identify primary and secondary audiences. People who directly receive your document are your primary audience and people who will receive these documents as they are passed on, are your secondary or “hidden” audience. Examine the level of knowledge, interest, and any potential biases your audience may have with regard to your message.
Some Commonly Used Formats
Business Letter: A business letter is preferred when communication is intended for your superiors and or will be seen by many.
Memo: A memo (memorandum) uses a less formal style of writing and is most preferred for in internal communication.
E-mail: The most commonly utilized tool for informal communication such as reminders, questions, instructions etc. It is very important to remember that email is a public domain and should not carry confidential information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers etc.
Compose Your Strategy
If your audience has already established an understanding of your communication then you can go straight to the point without getting to build their interest. If your audience is neutral or has less interest in your communication, you can adopt the show or tell style of writing to build their interest and motivate them.
On the other hand, if you audience is biased positively, reinforce their attitudes by mentioning the benefits accrued from your message. If your audience is biased negatively then you can adopt the following:
- Limit your request to the smallest one
- Respond to most likely objections
- State points you think they will agree with
- Get your audience to acknowledge there is a problem and provide the solution
Smarten Up Your Word Choice
Refrain from using jargon in your communication. Slang and jargon can be taken in different connotations from person to person and make the document hard to read and understand. You must also watch out for confusing and incorrect words. Accept, except, capital, capitol, affect, effect are some examples of the most incorrectly selected words without much realization.
Pay Attention to Your Structure
Introduction is the most important part of the document. Your introduction serves three purposes; builds interest, explains the reason why you are writing and provides a preview for the content that follows.
Building interest is necessary here and you can refer to an existing situation or conversation to achieve that. Explain the purpose of this communication by quickly getting to the areas of concern. Previewing includes a brief table of contents if your document is lengthy. The end portion of your document is an important one and contains reiteration and synopsis of the main ideas discussed. A typical ending mostly used requires an action step or feedback mechanism.
Each paragraph in your document should start with a generalization and every sentence in the paragraph should support that generalization. Keep your focus on the main ideas and refrain from using flashy words and phrases. Keep your sentence construction in check and avoid longer sentences.
Sentence construction is of vital importance and will be discussed in detail later in this article.
Use Transitional Words and Phrases for a Professional Spice
To help swing around your main ideas, use transitional phrases and words frequently used in business communication.
Similarly, moreover, in addition to, further, however, on the contrary, accordingly, finally, subsequently etc are some of the very frequently used transitional phrases and words. These transitional phrases maintain a smooth flow of information around the main ideas without any ambiguities.
Drafting Your Professional Sentences
Complete Your Sentences
Complete sentences contain a subject and a verb and one should never make the mistake of splitting the two in half. It simply means that you should not use “periods” where “commas” can do the trick.
Go Slow on Flowery Details
Flowery details are not at all recommended in business communication and are an utter waste of time, both for the writer and the audience. Let us consider some flowery sentences and their replacements mentioned in brackets.
- The question as to whether (whether)
- This is a subject that (this subject)
- He has not succeeded in (his failure)
Mind Your Spellings and Lettering
Always remember to perform a spell-check before you roll out your document. You must proofread the document yourself or have someone else do it for spelling mistakes and accuracy. Most common mistakes are using correctly spelled words you did not intend to use and have a different meaning all together. Affect/effect, capitol/capital, farther/further; are among the most commonly misused words that can change the entire meaning of the communication.
Grammar and Punctuation
Always use sentence structures where verb agrees with its subject regardless of intervening phrases that begin with words such as “together”, “including”, “plus” and “as well as”. Sentences containing verb/subject disagreements can alter the meaning of the message and is destructive by business communication standards.
Use of Active/Passive Voice
Sentences in the active voice have energy and directness, both of which will keep your readers stay focused. Sentences written in active voice are also less wordy than those in passive voice and support the business communication writing style to a great extent. Passive voice is recommended to be used but its overuse can throw readers off track.
We have discussed in detail some of the basic principles of business writing, and if you stick to these principles like glue, your business documents will progress and so will your business.