Effective Business Writing: Top Principles and Techniques

Business writing, what is it and who does it? Business writing can be referred to as written communication that has a certain standard and style. It targets the specific audience and concerns particular topics in business.

There are several documents used in business communication, such as memos, emails, and proposals. These documents are the ones used in a business setting to convey messages from one person to another and thus, need to be taken seriously.

Business writing has its pros and cons. I will highlight them to give you a view of how it can be useful or destructive.

  • Messages don’t have to be sent immediately. They can be delayed so as to be shaped to convey the message in the best possible way.
  • Written messages provide a point of reference.
  • Written messages provide a platform for someone to review the message so as to provide the appropriate feedback.
  • Written messages are considered to be the most appropriate medium to convey complex messages.
  • Good writing skills lead to better satisfaction of customers.

  • There is no immediate feedback.
  • Written messages take more time to compose.
  • However, there are principles and techniques to prevent these cons from taking full effect.

Things to Consider Before Writing
1. Purpose
Define your agenda before starting to write as this will set the tone for the message. If you want to invite people to a gathering, make sure you make it short and precise with the date, time and venue.

The purpose guides you in the direction you want to take. It acts as a reference.
To see how the document will take shape you need to answer a few questions on what your purpose is:
  • Is it to inform?
  • To persuade?
  • To argue?
  • To invite?
  • To inquire?
  • To make a suggestion?
  • To approve or reject?

2. Audience
For you to properly convey your message, you must know your audience. You must know their schedule and work habits.

If you send a memo about a staff meeting on a day off, you can be sure that most of your employees will be angered by this and might choose not to attend it.

Write a document that avoids certain topics such as religion or culture. This way you will avoid making the workplace uncomfortable.

Here is how you get to know your audience better:
  • When conveying external communication, be sure to add the company's achievements so as to build confidence.
  • When communicating with a client, focus on addressing their problems, show that you can solve them.
  • Go through the past communication documents to get a feel of how things are done at this company.
  • You can try and address the following questions when drafting the document.
1. Why the reader should care?
2. How does it benefit the reader?
3. How should the reader act?
4. What occurs when there is no action taken by the reader?
5. Where can the reader get more information?

3. Grammar
Good grammar stretches far beyond your school years. The less grammatical mistakes you make, the better.

Replace wealthy with the tycoon.
Don’t use “business prosperity”, use “boom” instead.
In place of "consensus of opinion", use "consensus".

These little things add up to a lot. You may also consider replacing nouns with verbs.

Example: instead of saying “make a recommendation” use “recommend that”.

Avoid using constructions like “it is” and “there are”, and don’t use fancy language.

Additional tips:
1. Employ an active voice instead of a passive voice. And be more assertive.
2. Be confident in your tone. Courteous and sincere.
3. Apply parallelism. Start with a verb when listing things.

Here are the best ways to edit grammar.
1. Shorten lengthy titles.
2. Be vigilant when using the word “obviously”.
3. Use “for example” instead of “of”.

4. Formatting
Use headings and bullets. Headings can be used to show the main points of a document and make it easier for people to scan it quickly so as to get what they are looking for.

Bullets can be used to refer to items. They can be used to condense large volumes of data into small bits that are easy to read.

Tables can also be used in a document. Mainly, tables are used for the comparison of items and will lead to lesser word count as there’s no need for explanation.

Infographics. These can be maps, flowcharts, and diagrams representing complex data that cannot be represented in text form. Plus, they are time and space savers.
To emphasize on things, you can use the boldface and italics in a document.

5. Sources
Sources can be useful in business documents.
a. Citation can be used in documents to provide the readers with sources, such as a website’s name and author’s information.
b. Refrain from using direct quotes. Instead, rephrase them in your own words so as to appear more intelligent.
c. Always explain the existence of your foreign materials, so as the readers don’t come up with their own version.
d. Employ persuasive sources. This will build your credibility.

6. Organizing Ideas And Developing Content
There should be a logical flow of ideas in your document. The cohesiveness should be evident.

Here are questions to help you achieve this:
  • Does your document have the relevant topics to be covered in its introduction? Your introduction should cover these three questions for the reader.
1. What document is this?
2. Why am I receiving this?
3. What should I do?
  • Does your message flow in a logical way?
  • Is your information arranged in the order of importance?
  • Did you cluster similar information?
  • Does each paragraph represent a particular idea?
  • Is each paragraph beginning with a keyword sentence?

Recheck the following for content development:
  • Did you provide enough information in the message?
  • Did you include examples, dates or anything to substantiate your claims?
  • Is there an addition of relevant graphics?
  • Did you trim the unnecessary information?

Modes of Business Communication

Here are the 4 types of business communication.
1. Results based communication. This type of communication urges people to take action with regard to certain rules or goals. It can serve as a means to remind people of rules, or as a way to create a road map to achieve certain goals. A good example is a memo listing certain weekly goals for employees.

2. Informational communication. Some documents aim to inform the employees about the changes that may be occurring in the workplace. It’s also any type of information someone may want to pass out to fellow colleagues.

3. Negative communication. There are times when bad news may need to be passed around in a formal way with the use of a business document. Such bad news may be the laying off of certain workers. This type of news must be conveyed in a sensitive manner so as not to upset people, but to make them understand why such a thing is happening. This can be done by offering an explanation or a cause for the actions being taken.

4. Persuasive communication. This type of communication aims at soliciting a type of favor from a specific source. The language to be used here must be sweet and charming so as to gain a favor. An example of such documentation is a proposal for funding from the government or from the angel investors.

I have taken the time to explain to you what business communication is, its advantages and disadvantages, the core principles that entail its effectiveness, and the questions that you may need to address in order to improve your business writing.

I’ve also highlighted the types of communication and how you are to use them on different occasions, and the type of language that must accompany them. Take into account these points the next time you write a memo, email, proposal or any other type of business communication.

About Author: Lori Wade is a freelance content writer who is interested in a wide range of spheres from education and online marketing to entrepreneurship. She is also an aspiring tutor striving to bring education to another level like we all do. Lori is used to handling many writing orders at the same time and as she likes sharing her ideas and experience, she decided to write a great article for you to show how multiple tasks should be dealt with. If you are interested in writing, you can find her on Twitter or Google+ or find her in other social media. Read and take over Lori’s useful insights!

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