From email to Skype chat, digital communications enable faster collaboration and fewer meetings, but they also put your business writing skills in the spotlight more than ever. Clients, co-workers and recruiters make judgments based on how well you communicate, so it's essential to develop good writing habits that get your point across. Improve everything from emails to memos with these simple writing tips.
1. Stick to Simple Vocabulary
Trying to sound smart with big words often obscures your meaning. Good writing creates a clear image with simple, direct words, so readers understand your intent without guesswork. Resist the urge to pull out your thesaurus, and stick to words you know.
2. Avoid Cliché Phrases
Nix the cliché business jargon, and deliver straightforward information. Readers are more likely to follow through effectively if you make your insights and questions obvious instead of babbling about "paradigm shifts" and "360 thinking."
3. Pay Attention to Tone
Communication problems happen when reader perceptions don't match your intentions. Avoid using a curt, robotic writing style that comes across as brusque and snarky, especially when requesting something from others. People respond to people, so a warm greeting and personable sentences can go a long way.
4. Use Serial Commas
Serial commas may be optional, but using them can prevent misinterpretations. Adding a comma before the last item in a list of three or more words removes ambiguity, making others less likely to misread important details or instructions.
5. Keep Paragraphs Short
When you need to hit several discussion points, organize information into short paragraphs with no more than four or five sentences. Good writing holds attention, and average readers get distracted reading long, winding thoughts.
6. Take Advantage of Bullets
Knowing how to group information can make memos, meeting minutes and emails more engaging and purpose-driven. Use bullets or numbering to highlight crucial directions or goals, making it easy for readers to refer back to them.
7. Ditch All Caps
Using all caps makes you seem like an inconsiderate troll who's always yelling. Not to mention, it's hard on the eyes. For better readability, use all caps sparingly to call out specific words, and ditch them altogether in most formal communications.
8. Edit Filler Words
Unbiased editing is the key to good writing. Give messages a thorough read-through to edit needless or redundant words. Chances are, you can shave a few adverbs or prepositions without changing the meaning of the sentence.
9. Favor Basic Syntax
Too often, professionals mistake syntactical gymnastics for good writing. Complicated syntax is easy to mess up and confusing to most readers. Instead of burying your point in a tangle of words, channel elementary school grammar and tell your story with basic sentence structure.
10. Keep Punctuation Under Control
Good writing depends on the right tone, wording and pacing, not expressive punctuation. Avoid loading your messages with exclamation points, semicolons or parentheses. Reserve these types of punctuation for rare occasions to make the right impact, and rely on descriptive writing to convey emotions.
Studying examples of good writing can help you spot habits to adopt or avoid. Informal methods of communication are gaining ground in business environments, which can blur the lines of professionalism. By honing your business writing skills, you can start new professional relationships with a positive impression.
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