Your ability to write well can make or break your career.
Even if “writer” isn’t mentioned anywhere in your job description, the ability to write well can be a big boost to your career.
From communicating with potential clients via your newsletter to sending an email to your boss to composing a company-wide report, most professional communication is done via the written word, so it’s absolutely essential that your writing skills are up to snuff.
Here are eight tips on how you can improve your business writing skills, no matter your position.
Know Your Facts
You will lose credibility quickly if the information you communicate isn’t accurate. So don’t rely on any old source to give you the information you need. Many websites quote incomplete or incorrect information, and some even purposefully spread untruths. Focus on official institutional sites, like those run by government agencies, educational organizations, or well-established businesses. If your source cites another study or report, find the original and interpret the data yourself. Don’t trust a stat just because it’s reported by a news outlet. Do your own fact checking.
Whether you’re writing for clients or colleagues, remember that everyone is short on time. In order to get — and keep — people’s attention, you need to be concise. Remember that shorter items are likely to be read on a mobile device. So use short sentences and paragraphs to keep text readable, and put your main point in the first sentence. For longer reports, use section headings and formatting tools, like bold font, to draw attention to key ideas (but don’t go overboard).
Look for Potential Misunderstandings
Once you’ve completed a draft, ask yourself, “How could this be misunderstood?” Take a step back from your writing and read it from the audience’s point of view. Look for words with multiple meanings and replace them with more precise alternatives. If you’re describing a process, use sequencing and transition words, like “first,” “second,” or “next,” to help your reader follow along. Double check your work and make your writing as clear as possible.
Use Online Tools
It’s always worth getting help with your writing, and plenty of online tools offer help. Give these a try:
- Easy Word Counter: Use this tool to check the length of your writing.
- State Of Writing: This site is full of helpful writing guides.
- Grammarly: This browser extension helps you with grammar and spelling in everything from WordPress to email. It also sends you a weekly report of your progress.
- Cite It In: Use this tool to cite your sources correctly.
Be Detailed From the Get-Go
Nothing is worse than having to send emails back and forth all day trying to clarify the details. Give readers everything they need so they don’t have to email back asking for more info. Nothing will alienate a potential client – or coworker – more than sending something that’s far too general to be useful.
Watch Your Tone
Tone doesn’t just matter when you’re talking to people face to face. It also affects your writing. You can tell when people are being curt, rude, or unfriendly when they’re writing. When you’re writing, use a friendly tone that invites readers to pay attention while being courteous to them. They’ll appreciate this more than you’d think.
Know When Writing Is Appropriate — and When It’s Not
Sometimes, sending a message or an email isn’t the best way to get in touch. It might be better to pick up the phone, set up a video chat, or meet up in person. Keep this in mind when you’re about to send a message. Is this message best sent via writing, or should it be delivered face to face?
Always Edit and Proofread
You’d be surprised at how many professionals skip this step — at a cost. No matter what you’re writing, ensure that it’s properly proofread and edited before it’s sent. Even a single letter in the wrong place in the wrong word can lead to embarrassment later. Spell check won’t catch everything, so make sure you read your writing carefully.