Communication. It’s one of the most valued skills employers look for in managers and directors. Yet, many professionals struggle when it comes to putting their thoughts in writing. Luckily, the skill of effective writing is not exclusive to famous authors. It can be taught, learned and mastered by anyone.
Whether you’re drafting an email or tasked with more strategic communications, here are 10 tips to improve your business writing:
- Think and plan. Before a single word is written, ask yourself this question: What am I trying to achieve? Are you trying to get something back from them, or are you just trying to dispense information? Define your goal of the communication and place it front and center in your mind. Do research, if needed, and make sure you have all the information to communicate the topic effectively.
- Know your audience. Consider who will read your work. Think about the questions or concerns your reader may have about the topic. Write to their reading level and understanding of the subject.
- Start with your big idea. Place the most important information upfront in the first couple of paragraphs and highlight or bold important details so your reader can get the gist of your communication quickly. Be sure to answer the who, what, where, when, why and how.
- Be concise and straight forward. An easy hack is to start by filling in the blank, “I’m writing to tell you____________.” While you can wordsmith your introduction later and add a catchy hook, it forces you to summarize your main point in one sentence.
- Break it up. When communicating a lot of information, it helps to present it in short paragraphs, using subheads or bullet points to break up the topic into more digestible bites of information. Bold deadlines and other important points to make them stand out
- Ask for help. Have another set of eyes review your writing before you make it public. Even professional writers have editors and proofreaders, so ask a coworker to read over your document and provide feedback. And offer to return the favor.
- Read aloud. Don’t just depend on your computer’s spell and grammar check; print the document and read it aloud to proofread it. You’re more likely to catch a typo or recognize poor flow if you read aloud. Also, typos tend to cluster, so if you notice one, reread that paragraph or section to double check for errors.
- Take time to revise, edit and proofread. A lot goes into writing a document – from brainstorm to final draft. With each draft, improve the flow, reorganize, remove unnecessary or repetitive text, and substitute overused or unclear words. And, be sure to take breaks between writing sessions to keep your mind sharp.
- Be conversational. “Professional” doesn’t have to be formal or filled with jargon. Opt for plainer language and try to write as you would speak.
- Pay attention to details. Double-check titles and name spellings. Call phone numbers to make sure they are correct.
Keep this article handy. The next time you find yourself preparing to write something, use this as a checklist to help improve the effectiveness of your communication. Remember: respectful, direct, concise communications work best. Get right to the point and consider your audience’s perspective. Follow these guidelines with each assignment, make them habit and you’ll be writing like a pro in no time.