When you’re writing in a business setting, it’s important to make your words count. You need to be clear and concise, while still sounding professional and authoritative.
If you’re not sure how to master a business writing style, don’t worry – we can help. In this post, we’ll give you tips on how to improve your writing skills and make an impact with your words.
So whether you’re sending an email or drafting a presentation, read on for the tips you need to write like a pro!
What is a business writing style?
A business writing style is used in professional settings when a clear, straightforward messaging is required.
Business writing is typically concise and to the point. It often uses active verbs and avoids flowery language. The goal is to get your message across clearly and efficiently.
It’s often easier to cite examples than describe, so let’s review a few of those next.
What are different types of “business writing”?
Let’s review some of the main categories that make up business writing, and then walk through a few examples.
Email is one of the most common forms of communication in professional settings. We imagine anyone reading this (especially if you’re in a large organization) would agree that email dominates daily communication these days.
A few examples of how emails are used in the business setting:
- Sales: Many organizations use email to communicate with potential customers, either via “cold email” or via “warmer” prospect nurturing campaigns.
- Customer follow-up: Email is commonly used to communicate with customers on project updates, asking for meetings or calls, responding to questions, and other normal tasks of servicing relationships.
- Delegating work: Asking a colleague or subordinate for help on a project. Defining what it is, what type of help is being requested, and timeframes for completion.
- One-to-many communications: Company leaders often use email to provide a message to employees with company updates, relevant news, new policies, etc.
Memo’s and emails are becoming more intertwined, but nonetheless this still deserves a separate point.
In business writing, a memo commonly serves two forms:
- Providing communication to a larger group that contains (hopefully) important information that all need to see. Updates on company performance, for example. Or a technical document that outlines issues, research performed, and conclusions.
- Documenting meetings and conversations held between parties. After verbal discussions, memories often diverge or fade altogether. Memo’s serve to memorialize important discussions, who was involved, conclusions reached, and next steps (including who owns those next steps). In certain settings the importance of memo’s can be crucial at later stages (particularly if legal matters arise and the “paper trail” is required to support decisions made).
Business presentations are a key part of communication in the workplace. Often delivered with a Microsoft Powerpoint slidedeck in hand, they combine a need for quality business writing and presentation skills.
Presentations are used in business to deliver information to employees, update stakeholders on company performance, or pitch new ideas to customers or management.
A well-crafted presentation can help you make an impact with your words and get your point across clearly and efficiently.
Letters are often used in a business writing context to communicate detailed or important information. This is the type of information that needs to be conveyed in a more personal way than an email. For example, a letter might be sent to apologize for a mistake made, to provide updated contact information, or to deliver sensitive news. It can also be used in business to provide a more personal, relationship-based, note. Examples of the latter may include something as simple as a “happy birthday” to a customer or colleague, or a congratulatory note on a major business event.
One other important use for letters in business is to formalize agreements made between parties. When two businesses have negotiated a deal and come to an agreement, a letter can be drafted and signed by both parties as a form of contract. This serves as a written record of the agreement and can help avoid any potential misunderstandings or legal issues later on.
Reports are used within a business to track progress and performance. They tend to be utilized in connection with data, and are almost exclusively on the more formal end of business writing styles.
Business reports can be as simple as a one-page document summarizing data or as comprehensive as a 100+ page study. The purpose of a report is to provide accurate and timely information to the reader so that they can make informed decisions.
In business, reports are commonly used to track sales data, customer feedback, employee productivity, financial performance, and other key metrics. By understanding how these areas are performing, businesses can identify areas for improvement and take action accordingly. Reports can also help businesses make projections for the future and set goals based on past performance.
How can you improve your business writing?
With the above examples in mind, it’s clear how important writing skills are to professionals looking to make an impact in their business.
Good writing skills come with time, intentionality, and repetition. They can be learned by anyone willing to spend the time practicing, and who can take a step back when writing during the day to incorporate these key strategies.
Below we’ll walk through 7 specific strategies to improve your business writing style that can lead to better outcomes in your career.
Start writing with the end in mind (define your goal)
If you’re writing to someone in business, it’s important to start with your goal. Be specific.
If you’re having a hard time with this step, that’s a sign that maybe nothing needs to be written at all (if you don’t know your goal – what’s the point for your reader)?
If you’ve been asked by a boss or colleague to write something and you don’t know the goal – ask them! And then once you better understand, you can incorporate that goal and produce content with a higher chance of meeting your boss or colleague’s expectation.
Whether you’re trying to persuade, inform, or build a relationship, keep that in mind while you write. Every business communication should have a purpose, and your goal will dictate the tone and content of your message.
Persuasive writing, for example, will be different than writing designed to build rapport. Good business writing is clear and concise, so always strive for that no matter what your goal may be. By taking the time to define your purpose beforehand, you’ll be able to write more effectively and achieve the results you’re looking for.
Write for your reader – not for you
Whether you’re drafting a proposal or composing an email, it’s important to keep your audience in mind. After all, the whole point of business writing is to persuade your reader to take some kind of action, whether that’s approving a budget, signing a contract, or simply reading your memo. So great business writing skills start with knowing your audience.
- What are THEIR goals?
- What will they be looking for in the content you’re drafting?
- What’s their background and (especially with technical writing)? Will you need to adjust language for any difference in expertise?
- Do they like more or less detail? Are they going to need a whole treasure trove of information to make a decision? Or just the high points?
By taking the time to understand your audience and tailoring your writing accordingly, you’ll be able to create persuasive business drafts that get results.
Write with intention around tone and message
When it comes to effective business writing, knowing your goals and your audience builds the foundation. These steps allow you to then be intentional with how you write your content.
By being specific about how you frame your message and the language you use, you can tailor your writing to be more effective and persuasive.
For example, if you’re writing to potential customers, using the right language (e.g. avoid jargon where inappropriate) and easy to understand will help them to see the value in what you’re offering.
On the other hand, if you’re writing to investors or other business professionals, using industry-specific language will help them to see you as an expert in your field.
By taking the time to understand your goals and your audience, you can ensure that your writing is more impactful and effective with the tone you use to deliver your message to them.
Don’t “bury the lede”
As a writer, it can be tempting to try and show off all of your knowledge on a given topic before finally getting to the point (aka, “burying the lede”).
However, in reality, readers generally prefer when writers get straight to the point (see above: know your audience!). This is especially true in business writing, where time is often limited.
As such, it’s important to remember that delivering your content in a clear and concise manner is usually more effective than trying to provide a detailed overview first. By getting straight to the point, you can ensure that your readers stay engaged with your writing and are more likely to keep reading.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide detail at all. Effective business writing most often entails making your point, and then backing it up with details.
Readers who care will appreciate the follow-up information. Readers who don’t can read your main point and move on.
This is true for emails, memo’s, and even technical reports. Respecting the readers time allows your writing to have a bigger impact and will increase it’s effectiveness accordingly.
Ensure accuracy and clarity in your writing
Writing is a essential skill in the business world. The ability to communicate clearly and concisely can mean the difference between success and failure in getting your message across. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to do proper research on the front-end. And then editing your writing on the back-end.
Make sure what you’re writing is accurate and true. This is becoming particularly important as modern technology is making writing even easier. AI copywriters (like Jasper ai) and other online writing tools are changing the game for drafting content. But they can’t do the thinking for you (at least not genuine and authentic thinking).
Make sure you’ve done your homework, have your sources, and are ready to back up anything you put on paper. In a business setting, if you’re challenged on the accuracy of your work and come through with well-researched support, your reputation takes a big step forward. When the opposite happens, trouble can ensue.
And once you’ve finished writing, spend more time than you think you need to editing. Ensure your message is clear and concise. Don’t lose your audience due to poorly edited, unclear content.
It’s also a good idea to run your work by a friend or colleague for review. Pay close attention to their feedback, and take it seriously. With a humble approach to this process, what makes it to a broader audience will be stronger than trying to go it alone.
Ultimately, a great business writing process typically skews towards the beginning (research) and end (editing) with less time then many may think for the actual writing. That part is important, of course, but only after doing the work to be able to put pen to paper. And only with the polish that comes with great, thoughtful editing.
Should this be an email? Or a phone call?
While not always applicable, this question becomes more important every day.
In a business setting, most professionals can tick off daily examples of emails that probably shouldn’t have been sent. Or clarifications attempted in that form that missed their mark and caused even more work and confusion.
One of the under the radar skills of a great business writer is to know when writing isn’t the right solution at all.
- Should you email your colleague to explain what needs to be done on a project? Or just stop by their office with notes?
- Does it make sense to email that prospective client? Or pick up the phone to try and build an actual relationship with them and draw out any objections you can then start addressing?
Bottom line is, effective writing entails thoughtfulness on strategy ahead of time. And that includes assessing the best medium for communicating your message. Don’t be afraid to close the laptop and converse the old fashioned way!
A great business writing style starts with you
We have covered a lot of ground here on the different written forms used in business and how you can improve your own writing skills to meet the needs of each of these forms.
In the end, one of the most important items to keep in mind when writing entail being genuine and authentic. Develop your own style that fits in the business setting you’re in. Gather feedback on a regular basis and incorporate that into your style where it suits you.
And practice, a lot. There are basic framework items that we have laid out above. And we believe they will set you on the right path to great business writing. But it’s up to you to get the reps to build those skills.
As writing becomes more and more of a lost art form, those who know how to execute a great business writing style are poised to play an important role.
With time and practice we’re confident these steps, along with your personal style, will improve the effectiveness of your business writing skills.
And as one of the dwindling number focused on this important skill, we believe that work ultimately improves your positioning in the professional world. And ultimately the trajectory of your career.
Thoughts on our advice? Questions? Contact us. We’d love to hear from you!