3 Idiot-Proof Principles For Effective Business Writing

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3 Idiot-Proof Principles For Effective Business Writing

What are three principles of effective business writing?

    Three principles of effective business writing are:
  1. Understanding your audience.
  2. Staying structured.
  3. Being precise.

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.

Effective Business Writing Tips

1. Understand Your Audience

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:

  • Is this piece of writing even necessary? If so, why?
  • Who am I addressing?
  • What purpose does the writing serve?
  • Which type of action do I want them to take when they're done reading?

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.

2. Stay Structured

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. Purpose For Focusing On Inbound
  • Increase sales
  • Minimize time and resources spent on outbound marketing
  • Scale the company more rapidly
  • Increase prices for products since customers are coming to us
B. Execution Of Strategy
  • Focus on content marketing
  • Create a product offer continuum system
  • Write eBooks to increase inbound leads
  • Use social media marketing to leverage traffic
  • Create several effective landing pages
  • Develop a series of conversion-focused CTA’s (Calls to action)
C. Related Costs
  • Time invested
  • Writers
  • Social media marketing management
  • Web development
  • Graphic design
D. Goals, Milestones, ROI
  • To see a 60-80% shift from outbound to inbound marketing and sales
  • Increasing traffic by over 1200%
  • Increasing leads by over 500%
E. Examples Of Companies That Do It Right

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.

3. Use Precision

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.

Vague And Confusing:

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:

  • Time: Monday, February 2nd
  • Location: Downtown offices -- 123 Sesame Street.

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. michael.scott@dundermifflin.paper 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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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Josh Coffy

Josh has an exhaustive understanding of technology and a creative marketing approach that drives client results. In his free time, Josh does CrossFit and travels with his wife.