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Six tips for effective, conversational business writing

Updated on February 13, 2013

Improve your business writing skill

Improving business writing doesn't have to be a chore. There are some straightforward things you can do to turn your letters, email, memos or reports for your job into sparkling readable docments For many people business writing may comprise 20 to 50 percent of the job they perform (the higher up you go, the more of it you will have to do). Indeed, it is seen as a performance criteria in many jobs, and your ability to do it well will heavily influence whether or not you will get a promotion. So here are six quick tips to improving your business writing.

Use a conversational tone

Improving business writing means writing a document in a natural way, as if you are speaking it. A common misconception writing students have is that business writing has to sound stuffy, pompous overbearing and flowery. Nothing could be further from the truth.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people, when I say, that writing should be conversational, believe this means using "chatroom lingo" or IM slang, and that is also not OK. Writing in a conversational style also means to be professional. Imagine you were in the person's office and speaking to him/her. You would not use slang, or IM terms in person, would you. You also wouldn't use stuffy formal language either. Here's an example:

Stuffy: As per your request, steps will be undertaken immediately to resolve the problem.

Conversational: As you requested, I'll be taking steps to resolve the problem.

Note how writing conversationally also means using active voice, and speaking directly to the reader (you).

Watch out for long lead ins

Improving your business writing means avoiding long lead ins in your document. I call this the "ramble" dance. That's where the writer goes on and on instead of getting to the point, right up front. Most business writing is routine, informational and "frontloaded". That means it contains the main purpose and focus of the document right up front.

Here are some wordy lead ins:

  • I am writing you to tell you that (well what is it? why not start with the news)
  • I am sending this announcement to let you know that
  • This is to inform you that


Eliminate redundancies

To revise your writing, watch out for redundancies, or saying the same thing twice. Here are some examples:

  • advance warning -generally, warnings are in advance, so leave out the "advance"
  • assemble together-assembling generally means to put together, so leave out the "together"
  • basic fundamentals-fundamentals generally are basic
  • each and every - why not just use each
  • unexpected surprise - surprises generally are unexpected

Watch out for wordiness

Business writing needs to be economical and focused. You don't want to waste your reader's time, and you don't want to waste space. Yet many writers are in the habit of expressing thoughts in too many words.

Perhaps they had one of those teachers who said that a document had to be say 400 words long, but they finished at 300 words, then puffed up the rest. We don't need to do this in business writing.

Here are some common wordy phrases writers use:

  • Due to the fact that: Why not say 'because'
  • Until such time as: why not say 'until'.
  • At this point in time: why not say now


Kick out nouns when you can

Active verbs work best in business writing. They keep your text, crisp, concise and conversational. Here are some wordy noun phrases that can be tightened by using active verbs.

  • conduct a discussion of (why not say discuss)
  • create a reduction in (why not say reduce)
  • take action (why not say act)

Improving business writing: Dump trite phrases

Ah those trite phrases, otherwise known as deadwood. These are stale, archaic phrases that are from another era. Ask yourself, would you use any of these in conversation?

  • As per your request (why not say as you request)
  • Pursuant to your request (at your request). When was the last time you used the pursuant in conversation? Try not to sound like a lawyer in your writing.
  • With reference to. (Just say 'about')

How do you improve your business writing?

Submit a Comment

  • SkillTech Pacific profile image

    SkillTech Corporate Training 

    6 years ago from Papua New Guinea

    Effective writing has many benefits in professional and person life of a person. One thing we keep emphasizing is the basics. Everything starts from foundation. That is in essence, the basics. With strong foundation basics on business writing, one can be very effective in overall business writing. I see we speak almost the same language and I appreciate it here. Great tips here and hope and let’s keep educating and leading.

    SCT

  • Rhonda_M profile imageAUTHOR

    Rhonda Malomet 

    6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    As per is one of those expression that still makes the rounds, yet every business writing book I've taught out of in the last 10 years says not to use it. It's latin, sounds pretty good, but the trend is to plain and conversational.

  • Brooke Lorren profile image

    Brooke Lorren 

    6 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

    I think that I use "per your request" on occasion in conversation... LOL. Good advice though.

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