As a manager, you want readers to understand what you write, right? Then make it easy for them to read your messages by honing your business writing skills.
With effective writing skills, business leaders can produce documents that are credible and convincing. A clear, concise writing style will make your ideas super easy to grasp.
How to improve business writing skills
Follow these five tips to simplify your writing:
Get to the point quickly. Help readers see your intent right away. Put your main point up-front in a written communication.
Say things quickly. Craft short sentences (20 words maximum) in short paragraphs (three sentences maximum).
Say things simply. Use everyday language—mostly short words of one or two syllables. Write to express, not to impress.
Say things boldly. Take a clear stand about the point you want to deliver. Be precise but concise in what you say.
Make your message look easy to read. Add lots of white space in your message to give the writing an open look. Use vertical lists (bullets or numbers) to lay out ideas with a simple, logical flow.
Problems to avoid in business writing
When crafting a written communication, consider your readers. What will they prefer?
Many people today don’t really read. They skim and scan a message, looking for key points. So let them know right away what’s important in your communication and why. And keep everything clean and simple.
As you develop your message, avoid three common problems with business writing that readers dislike:
Overwriting. When sentence length goes up, readability goes down. If a sentence goes beyond 20 words, it may be overwritten and the main point may be lost. Focus on one or two ideas per sentence.
- Don’t say this: During the next year, our entire organization will be focused on multiple strategies to improve productivity levels as well as devise ways to retain customers and drive higher levels of customer satisfaction. (32 words)
- Say this: Next year we will focus on new ways to improve productivity, keep customers, and satisfy them even better. (18 words)
Vague wording. The longer the word, the more abstract it is. Great business writing consists of using mostly short words that readers can see and feel. Avoid jargon that readers may not understand.
- Don’t say this: Transformational sales strategies are being developed by teammates.
- Say this: Jen and John are making big plans for a new sales campaign.
Too much “gray.” Avoid long paragraphs that create large blocks of gray on the page. Don’t go beyond three sentences in each paragraph. The longer the paragraph, the less organized it looks and the harder it is to read.
Simplify your writing so that readers won’t have to struggle to understand it. Keep your message “Sesame Street” simple. Such was the advice of A.G. Lafley, the legendary former CEO of Procter & Gamble.
A final thought: It may take time to adapt to this new style of business writing, but it’s worth it. Readers will understand you better.
Isn’t that the point of having something to say?
Visit AMA’s full product suite of business writing courses designed to elevate your writing skills.