Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 1/27/14 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.
Effective business writing skills are vital.
No matter what industry you're in, you have to be able to communicate in the form of writing.
Even day-to-day communication with co-workers and clients calls for us to be able to communicate with the written word.
As you'll see in the following examples, understanding your audience, having a structured plan and being precise are the important elements that come together to make your business writing effective.
Here's what you need to know about effective business writing.
Before you even start writing, you need to understand your audience and what you're trying to communicate to them.
Unless you're writing in your personal journal, you have some type of audience and you need to know what their needs are and know how to address them.
Here are some questions to as yourself as you begin to write:
Sometimes, to further understand your audience, you have to think like them and converse with yourself. Pretend that your piece of writing is a verbal dialogue between you and your audience.
What would you say? How would they respond? What type of information is necessary and what information needs to be left out? What do they want to hear?
Start answering questions by having a conversation in your head. This allows you to truly get inside your readers' heads by simplifying your approach.
It's a good idea to begin with an outline of the points you want to cover in this particular piece of writing.
You can use bullet lists or numbers to jot down the main ideas you want to cover. Once this list is created, go back through and "beef up" the list by adding subcategories.
For example, if you were drawing up plans for your inbound marketing strategy, you may start with a list that looks like this:
A. Purpose for focusing on inbound
B. Execution of strategy
C. Related costs
D. Goals, milestones, ROI
E. Examples of companies that do it right
Once the main points are outlined, you can begin adding detail by subcategorizing each point.
Here's what your business writing plan may look like:
A very clear picture begins to appear as you structure a blueprint for your writing piece.
From here, you could write a complete three-month plan that covers all aspects of your outline.
Intentions and results are two very different things.
You could have the best intentions and still not communicate effectively. This causes a whirlwind of confusion and frustration for everyone. When you're writing, you can often save time (and money,) by being precise.
Take a look at the difference between these two pieces of communication.
Dear Client, Sending this to confirm your meeting with us next week that we talked about over the phone the other day. We really want to talk about some of the marketing ideas we have that will definitely help your business in the near future. Let me know if you are still planning on the meeting. We look forward to talking! Regards, Michael Scott
Dear Client, This email is to confirm our meeting:
You will be in attendance along with myself and my partner, Dwight. We will be discussing direct marketing strategies for quarter 1, so please come prepared with the information that was outlined in the brief we gave you last Tuesday. (Brief is attached to this email for reference.) Kindly respond via email or phone within 48 hours to confirm this meeting. Kind Regards, Michael G. Scott — Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton. firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 111-222-3333 Mobile: 222-333-4444
While the second email is slightly longer, it delivers much more information. Most people don't want to take the initial time to communicate like this because they think they're wasting time.
But the exact opposite is true. Had Michael Scott sent that first email, there would have been wasted communication when the client came back and asked, “What day and time is the meeting again? Is this video chat or in person? Do you want just me to come or for me to bring my partner? etc.”
This type of precision needs to be applied to master effective business writing. The difference between vague and precise could ultimately be the difference between getting a promotion, landing a client or expanding your company.
While this article outlines simple principles, they're important to address. Entrepreneurs and other professionals who don't know how to effectively communicate through writing ultimately end up hurting their careers.
Take time to make sure your communication is effective. Understand your audience, stay structured and be precise.