In business writing, what you say is as important as how you say it. While you don’t need to follow the rigor of journalists following AP style, you also don’t enjoy the complete creative freedom used by fiction writers.
Business writers need to find something that falls between a style that captures your company’s voice but resonates with your customers the way you want.
You want business writing to be attractive but easily digestible.
Impeccable grammar is a must, but you don’t want to alienate readers with your vocabulary. If a reader needs to pull out their dictionary when reading an information pack, you failed.
The ultimate goal is to offer clear and concise writing. How do you get there? Instead of a business writing class, try out these writing techniques for businesses guaranteed to improve your communication skills (and win you more sales).
8 Writing Techniques For Businesses To Try
Whether you’re a professional writer or you fell face first into writing your company’s brochure, it never hurts to brush up on the basics. Even the best business writers forget about these simple checks that keep their writing sharp.
Try out one of these techniques at a time. Once you master it, use another. Before you know it, you’ll use writing habits that carve out a nearly-perfect draft the first time around.
Here’s what every business writer should do:
Cut Out Redundancies
You wouldn’t allow redundancies that cost you money in any other area of your business, so don’t let it into your writing either.
Avoid using four words when one will do. Keep your sentences short and easy to read. Express one idea at a time and use the simplest (but truest) words to get it done.
When you cut out redundant work and phrases, you’ll simultaneously improve the clarity of your writing. Whether it’s a pamphlet, a white paper, or a blog post, say what you mean in only as many words as you need.
Your marketing system is customer-focused, and your writing should be, too. Write to address customer pain points and provide actionable inspirational advice.
If you can’t empathize with your customer, then you can’t expect them to understand or trust you much less buy your products.
Embedding empathy is vital because your business writing teaches, sells, and tells stories. Doing any of those things without concern for the reader leaves them in the dark.
Your standout features may make sense to you. You work with them every day. Someone new to your product may have no idea what those features mean and more importantly what those features mean to them. Let them in on the secret and show them why it matters instead of leaving them to figure it out for themselves because trust us, they’ll walk away.
Skip Meaningless Words
Some words leave too much to the imagination. Here’s just a few:
You use those words to respond to a greeting handed out by someone you don’t know well. “I’m fine” works when you say hello to your barista, but it won’t land with customers.
They don’t want to know why something is good or okay. They don’t even want to know why something is great—your customers what to know what you do, how you do it, and most importantly, how it directly relates to their lives.
Choose every word carefully. You want it each word to paint a picture and be actionable for your reader. To achieve meaning, choose your words precisely. Don’t be afraid to break out your thesaurus to start brainstorming and exploring words that are accessible to your audience but still nail down what you’re talking about to eliminate all ambiguity.
To that end, don’t replace “good” with a complex word or jargon. Complicated word choice almost does more damage than the bland “goods” and “greats.” You should speak plainly and respect your reader enough to know that they want to know what it is you want to say in clear terms.
Get Rid Of Prepositions
Prepositions are one of the things that can contribute extensively to wordiness and clumsiness.
Prepositions contribute extensively to wordiness and clumsiness.
Do you see the difference between those two sentences? The first sentence has ten more words than it needs. Use a simple trick to eliminate all those extra words and improve the authority of your writing: eliminate prepositions.
When you look at prepositions, you’ll see strings of words waiting to be chopped out. Without the extra “to,” you don’t need “have the ability.” See the extra “of” in the first half of the sentence? Get rid of that, and you eliminate “one of the things that.”
It also works when you write headlines or try to sharpen a sentence. For example, “Work meeting November 22” reads better than “Meeting on November 22 about work.”
The trick will free your word count and eliminate ambiguity from your writing.
Need a quick preposition reminder? Find a list of the most common prepositions and how they turn into prepositional phrases here.
Use Punctuation Carefully
Avoid exclamation points at all costs. An exclamation point should beg you to use it before it ever enters your business writing.
Overuse reduces the impact, and it looks unprofessional. More importantly, you should never use more than one in each type of text much less more than one at the end of the sentence.
Do you love an exclamation point? Consider authors’ general disdain for them to understand how much it will stand out. Elmore Leonard says no one should use more than two or three for every 100,000 words of prose they write.
That means you’d need to write a book and a half before you can whip one out.
Exclamation points make up for lacking prose, so don’t use them!
(See how weird that was?)
Avoid Blocks Of Text
The best gift any writer gives their readers is a break for their eyes. In other words, leave the walls of text for the French novels.
When you write for the web, stick to four to five lines per paragraph as a maximum. Switch it up between sections to keep the eyes alert and improve the aesthetic of the paper.
Choose Active Voice
Most people think about active and passive voice in high school writing courses and then leave all thoughts of voice and verb tense behind.
Business writers do best when they choose an active voice. That means avoiding any form of the verb “to be” when possible. What words are off-limits? They include:
Skipping passive voice improves your sentence structure. Look at these two examples:
“I ate a cupcake.”
“I have eaten a cupcake.”
Both mean the same thing, but the active voice makes its point faster and more authoritatively. It’s simple, to the point, and stops you from dithering.
Struggling with keeping passive voice out of your work? Try starting your sentences with the verb.
Beginning each sentence with a verb commands the reader, and it shows you the power of active voice. Can’t you tell?
Use Tools To Automate
We have news you will love. Writing and proof-reading is no longer up to you alone.
Writers across the profession use writing and proof-reading tools to fix lingering bad habits and catch small errors.
Have you ever returned to a month-old blog post only to see an embarrassing typo? Don’t live your life in regret. Fix the typo before you publish with an extra pair of automated hands.
Some tools used by writers include:
These offer extensions for your web browser and Word products, so you’ll never have to go without no matter what modality you use.
Grammarly catches grammar and spelling mistakes. It also picks up on passive voice issues, using prepositions at the end of sentences, and overly complicated words or phrases. It offers settings for different versions of English (American, Canadian, British, and Australian) and allows you to switch between formal and informal forms of writing like scientific papers or company blog posts.
ProWritingAid goes a few steps further than Grammarly and offers more intrusive but helpful style suggestions.
Hemingway provides points that simplify your writing. It lets you know when you use too many run-on sentences or if your paragraphs are too long. It also picks up on complex words and phrases and provides suggestions for quick fixes.
Become A Better Writer And Make More Sales
Make these eight changes to your writing workflow and things will change before you know it. Each of these techniques creates sharper writing filled with words that hold meaning for you and your audience.
Better writing translates into better relationships with your colleagues and customers. Before you know it, you improve customer satisfaction and sales without spending a dime.
What’s your secret writing ingredient? Share it in the comments below.