In the days of yore, when most professional communication would be carried out either face to face or via telephone lines, business writing was the task of a select few, such as high-ranking managers, lawyers, advertising industry staff, etc.. The times have changed and the communication revolution has taken everyone to task in mastering the skills of the email. Since just about everyone needs to know how to write a good professional email these days, here are seven useful business writing tips fit for anyone, irrespective of the kind of work they do.
Keep it literal
The first and foremost of our business writing tips is to forget all about figures of speech. Similes, puns, metaphors, and hyperbolae may all work wonders in literature, but they have no place in business writing. An email cluttered with figures of speech will only make communication less clear, and therefore less efficient.
Edit yourself to the bone
One of the most difficult to implement of all business writing tips is the one that has to do with brevity. Indeed, when it comes to writing for professional purposes, the adage ‘Brevity is the mother of wit’ applies just as well as at any other time. When re-reading your business communication, read with parsimony in mind: cut out any word you don’t need and do so ruthlessly. Also, avoid using words such as ‘parsimony’ in emails.
Active verbs are the uncrowned kings of business writing tips
If you’ve taken any English grammar in school, you probably remember the existence of an active voice and a passive one for verbs. In writing, irrespective of form, active verbs are always better to use than passive ones. To give you a clear example of this, always avoid “the account was acquired by X” – instead, spring for the active version: “X acquired the account.” The latter type of sentence will make communication clearer, it will add a touch of dynamism to your text, and will also focus more on the social aspect of business writing.
Verbs are better than adverbs
Yes, the second one on our list of business writing tips that has to do with verbs. Verbs literally move communication forward. They energize it and make it more action oriented, which is why they are the preferable choice in most instances of business writing. So, instead of writing something like “The exchange rate decreased severely”, you might want to use something along the lines of “The exchange rate dropped”. It is not only clearer, but more active, too.
Keep it professional
When writing personal emails or other types of written messages, we often allow ourselves a bit of leeway when it comes to spelling, punctuation, and typical opening and closing phrases. But while ‘xoxo’, multiple ellipses and exclamation marks, as well as text message spelling might be ok in a personal message, they are definitely to be avoided in business writing. Keep your spelling clean, your punctuation at the required minimum, and opt for professional opening and closing phrases, such as “Best regards”.
Avoid big words
Whenever you’re checking a professional email before hitting the ‘send’ button, make sure you have consistently used simple, concrete, day-to-day language. Long, big, ‘SAT’ words will always lose out in terms of efficiency in business communication in the face of everyday words. Similarly, make sure that your references are as clear as possible to your interlocutor – when writing to address a specific situation make sure you are explaining that situation in as much detail as needed.
Know your grammar
While this might strike many of our readers as one of the more commonsensical business writing tips included on the list, take our word for it: there is nothing more valuable for professional communication in writing than the proper use of grammar. Know the difference between ‘to’, ‘two’, and ‘too’. Understand when you need to use ‘that’ and when ‘which’ is recommended. Have a firm grip over your use of the preposition ‘whom’, instead of ‘who’. Learn that ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ are two entirely different words, with different meanings, which cannot be used interchangeably. Your interlocutors will thank you for respecting the number one rule of business communication: accuracy. Grammar is not a school subject, it’s part of communication etiquette, irrespective of whether you’re a doctor, an IT programmer, or a journalist.