Three Important Tips for Better Business Writing

Most projects require some amount of writing—memos, reports, status updates, budget justifications, personnel requests and other communications all call for clear, and sometimes persuasive, writing. If writing isn’t your thing (and for most of us it isn’t), then read on for tips to help streamline your writing tasks while improving your skills.

Clarity is key. Remember that the aim of most business writing is to convey information; readers are looking for solid, current data. If you’re missing information, outline what’s still unavailable, and clearly identify items that are preliminary or pending approval. If you know when you’re likely to have final clarification on this type of data, express that in your communication and be sure to follow up on it in a timely manner.

Be organized. Group similar topics, either by the type of data (dollars, results, timelines) or by project phase (budget, schedule, deliverables). Use bullet points to highlight key information, and provide data in a graphical format—charts, bar graphs, tables, etc.—if it will make the information easier for readers to understand and digest. Good business writing provides information with as few distractions as possible.

Maintain a no-nonsense approach. Jokes and clichés will only get in the way of your message. Clearly state the purpose of your communication. Titles like “news,” “update,” and “budget” are too vague to be sufficient; instead, “New York site inspection news,” “second floor furniture installation update” and “proposed revisions to expense budget” will let readers know exactly the type of data you have for them.

Business cases and other documents requiring persuasive writing should follow these same rules. Clearly state your request, outline the benefits to the organization, and provide the potential impact of inaction or lack of approval. If you have a deadline for the decision, state it up front.

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