26 Jun 2012

5 tips for better business writing

Do you judge businesses on the clarity of their communications? Tell us below. There’s a popular idea that mediums such as Twitter and SMS are ruining the English language. The counter argument, of course, is that they’re making the written word more important than ever. Certainly, from email to presentations, proposals, reports, memos, quotes and manuals, the range of documents that business people are called upon to write is growing. And, in the minds of many customers, the quality of a person’s written communications often reflects not only on the writer but on their business – how professional and intelligent it’s judged to be. While some might be naturals, the ability to write well is something that can be learned. Here are a few tips gathered from some of the better writers in the Brennan IT team: 1. Shorter is always better. This goes for words as well as sentences and paragraphs. Don’t write ‘utilise’ when ‘use’ will do, for example, and say what you need to using as few words as possible. As the famous line goes: “I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” 2. Avoid jargon. George Orwell said, “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.” Why? Because it makes your message more difficult to understand. If a customer isn’t aware of what the jargon means, you could alienate them. 3. Use active rather than passive language. This is another of Orwell’s suggestions. Active language is more interesting to read, and will usually get your message across faster. Instead of writing, “The deal was secured by Nick,” say, “Nick secured the deal.” 4. Practice. Clearer and better writing only comes from practice. Even the best writers in the world would say they’re still learning. If you’re putting together a proposal or emailing a customer, check over and edit what you’ve written at least once – cut out as many words as you can and use a spelling checker. 5. Copy! If you don’t have time to practice, copy! If you commonly communicate the same messages, write something well once, then keep a template and adapt it to suit next time. What tips would you give for effective writing? How important is it? Let us know below.