Business Writing: The Power of Well-Crafted Language
Posted by Anni M.
I often write about interpersonal communication—the set of complex skills that help one person relate to another, foster collaboration and efficiency, and respect the diverse perspectives of each member of a team. But verbal communication is just one facet of the interpersonal business world. Increasingly, as email becomes one of the primary forms of communication, writing is becoming just as important as speaking. For remote workers, it’s more important. And yet, many of our brightest minds are graduating from business school without a solid formal writing education. This is a dangerous predicament—we must continue to teach grammar, punctuation, and proper voice if we are going to build the next generation of skilled communicators. Here are some tips for effective, powerful writing in a business context. These rules apply if you’re writing an email, a grant proposal, a resume, or a business plan.
This might sound easy but in a world full of buzzwords, it isn’t. Business jargon may seem appealing—after all, it was invented to describe exactly what you’re writing about—but it’s lazy and it’s guaranteed to make your reader’s eyes glaze over like so many doughnuts. If you’re so accustomed to jargon that you’re having trouble identifying it in your writing, ask a colleague to give your work the once-over. Beware of words and phrases like, “brainstorming,” “opportunities to work together,” and “creative synergy.” In fact, strike “synergy” from your vocabulary all together. It’s been so completely co-opted by the world of business doublespeak, it’s hard to imagine it in any other context.
Less is More
Be as succinct as possible. This is critical for several reasons. In our current fast-paced business culture, people are less and less willing to take the time to read. If you fill your email or memo with words, chances are good you’ll lose 99% of your audience. After you’ve written a first draft, go through it again and cut out any unnecessary words. Try to phrase things simply and avoid words you learned in English class. While big words are lovely and elegant, they are out of place in a utilitarian business communiqué.
Check and Double Check
Proofread as carefully as possible. Typos aren’t just unprofessional and embarrassing, they get in the way of your message. Don’t rely too heavily on spell-check either. Often spell-check will re-word sentences in awkward ways that obscure meaning. Take each memo as an opportunity to practice your proofreading skills and, as always, if you don’t feel confident doing it yourself, ask a colleague to help.
I will be writing more on this topic in the coming weeks. In the meantime, find additional business writing resources at the Harvard Business Review.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..