The ability to communicate effectively in writing is a key business skill. Today communication has become less formal than in the past, and business is often conducted orally or by email. This does not mean that written communication is any less important.
Tony Rossiter in his book “Effective business writing” presents some golden rules for effective writing.
1. The purpose
Before you write a single word, ask yourself: what’s the purpose of this? Stop and think. There are lots of possible reasons for writing something. Whatever the purpose, the key thing is to keep it in your mind as you write.
- To provide information
- To explain
- To describe
- To evaluate
- To persuade
2. The subject
Make sure you understand the subject and the matter you are writing about. It might sound obvious, but if you are working to a tight deadline and you are putting together materials from other sources (colleagues, experts, internet), it can be tempting to include stuff you really don’t understand.
3. The reader
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Look at the writing from the reader’s point of view. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who will read this?
- What do they already know?
- What do they want to know?
- How much interest do they have?
- How much background do they need?
- How many details do they want?
- What kind of language do they understand?
- What questions might they have?
- What concerns will they have?
- What do I want them to do when they’ve read it?
3. Clarity and concision
Business writing needs to be clear and concise. Short documents are more likely to be read and remembered.
- Keep your sentences and paragraphs reasonably short
- Cut out superfluous words and phrases
- Use clear, useful headings
- Avoid jargon and acronyms the reader may not understand
- Make it as easy as you can for the reader
- Write in logical order
If what you’re communicating is important, it’s usually best to put it in writing even if you also communicate it orally. Written communication is very frequently the better choice simply because – if it’s clear, concise and well written – it can do the job more effectively.
Adapted from Effective Business Writing, by Tony Rossiter.