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7 Simple Rules for Writing Simply in Your Business Communications

December 1, 2017

Business writing tips

A person’s writing says a lot about him or her. With effective business writing skills, you can convey your credibility as a business professional and get the results you need.

As a team leader, you want your writing to be simple and clear. This writing style will showcase your professionalism and help you achieve results in a quick, effective matter. The problem is when your thoughts get jumbled and the writing becomes ineffective.

A checklist for improving your business writing skills

Here are some rules for simple, effective business writing from AMA’s Business Writing Made Simple seminar. This checklist can help you create a professional image, communicate simply, and achieve the right results:

At the document level
1. Write short documents (or make long ones seem short).

  • Keep most of the writing to one page. Remember, the more we write, the less readers read.
  • If you must write longer documents, create an executive summary and break up the full content into short enclosures.

2. Put the main point up front (to make the key idea of the document quickly visible).

  • Write a precise subject line previewing the main point. Example: Update Due by May 1
  • Put the main idea in the first paragraph.
  • Delay the main point if delivering bad news or if making difficult requests that will be resisted.

At the paragraph level
3. Write short paragraphs (to make them easy to read and scan).

  • Keep paragraphs to one inch deep (five lines of type maximum).
  • Make them look like outlines when possible.

4. Use visual cues to highlight key points (to make documents and paragraphs easy to scan).

  • Create eye-catching headings, headlines, bulleted lists, and numbered lists.
  • Use underlining, bold, italics, font sizes, font types, and font colors, but don’t overdo them.

At the sentence level
5. Write short sentences (to make the writing easy to read and easy to understand).

  • Keep sentences short (20 words maximum) and in the active voice.
  • For a smooth flow, aim for an average length of 15 words (roughly one line of type).
  • Cut long, wordy phrases.

At the word level
6. Use mostly short, precise words (to make ideas clear and easy to understand).

  • Use the short words of one or two syllables that people speak every day.
  • Keep long words (three or more syllables) to 15 percent maximum of the total word count.
  • Avoid legalese, jargon, acronyms, and technical terms that readers may not understand.
  • Use words that create the desired tone: direct, spirited, collaborative, or technical.

At every level
7. Use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

  • Proofread for mistakes that harm your credibility, confuse readers, or distract them.
  • Check for typos and missing words.

Take the time to improve your business writing skills by following these rules, and you’ll enhance your image as a credible, skilled individual who can get results. Business writing is an opportunity not only to influence others but also to display your professionalism and personal brand, so doesn’t miss out on the chance.

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When you hone your business writing skills, you can deliver clear and convincing messages and enhance your managerial effectiveness.
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About The Author

Dorothy Deming is a learning solutions manager at American Management Association. She manages a suite of courses including business writing, supervisory skills, professional development, and leadership development. She has been with AMA for five years.

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