You probably can’t go a day, or even an hour, without writing a letter, email, business plan, proposal, report, memo, social media post or instant message in the name of doing your job.
With the written (or typed) word so prevalent in today’s business world, communication skills, specifically better business writing skills, are absolutely crucial to any professional, in any role, in any industry.
Like any skill, some people are natural writers while others must work a bit harder to put the right words in the right place. Regardless, it’s easy to consider good business writing a secondary skill when:
There are too many rules.It’s true. The English language is full of double standards, exceptions to the rule andstrange nuances.
My other skills make up for what I lack.Maybe that’s true. Stellar sales, interpersonal or technical skills might have already helped you succeed.
I don’t have time to self-edit.You’re busy. You need to get the email sent, not ensure you win an award for your turn of phrase.
No one notices the quality of my writing.You’re not the only busy person, so who cares if you miss a comma here or there?
The business case for better business writing
‘The core of writing, regardless of medium, remains the same: the ability to communicate an idea, with force and clarity and with a voice that over time people recognise as yours,’ says Shay David of Kaltura.
Forget the excuses. Today, written communication might be your only opportunity to make an impression, convey an idea or persuade another person. Without better business writing skills, you might:
Kyle Wiens, in his article for HBR ‘I won’t hire people who use poor grammar. Here’s why,’ writes that ‘Good grammar is credibility.’ As a professional, you know credibility is important to you and to a company. So, how do you begin to both develop and deploy better business writing skills?
1. Build a firm foundation
Themisuse of basic grammarcan change the meaning and tone of your writing. It will actually save time in your communications if you can learn to take advantage of the way grammar makes writing more clear.
Sound business writing starts with the basics of grammar, including:
People tend to scan first to determine both what you’re writing about and whether or not it has value to them. By making it more efficient for them to consume what you’ve written, you improve your ability to spread ideas or gain information.
5. Hone your writing process
Once you have some basic writing principles in hand, the best way to combat poor writing is to work on your process Remember the three-step program:
It will be easier to stay organised if you know what you want to say. Writing an outline doesn't need to be time-consuming. For short communications, your outline will look more like a mission statement, such as:
‘I’m going to find out when the shipment is coming.’
‘I need to tell our social media followers about our latest promotion.’
For longer communications, create the outline first and then ‘fill in the blanks.’ This keeps your main points from getting jumbled together and diminishing the clarity of your message.
If you fiddle with every sentence as you write, it can be hard to create a cohesive final product. While every word and its placement matters, many times, it’s easier to edit yourself after you have the words on the page.
If you can learn to get your ideas out efficiently, it will leave you more time for the final and most important step.
Always re-read what you write before pressing print, send or post. This will help you:
Identify and remove unnecessary or redundant words and unrelated ideas
Correct spelling, grammar and word usage mistakes
Ensure the organisation and format are the best they can be
Double check any words, spelling or grammar rules you are unsure of
With resources like Google, online dictionaries and thesauruses, spell check and the like, you can build anarsenal of resourcesto serve as reference tools while writing and editing and that will ultimately help you deliver better business writing.
Spread the word
Communication is a central skillfor any successful professional, but good business writing isn’t just important to an individual - it’s important for a company too. You can take steps to focus on and improve your own business writing, butyou should also take the lead when it comes to encouraging employees and colleagues to do the same.
Think about it like this: every time you or someone in your company hits the send button there's a chance it will bring in thenext big client, the next job or the next promotion. When you think about it like that, the importance of business writing becomes crystal clear.