Five simple business writing tips

Business writing can seem dry, but it doesn't have to be. Following a few simple rules can make your business writing more lively.

#1 - Use Present Tense

Present tense is more powerful - and usually more appropriate - than future tense.

Instead of, "Management will evaluate the complaint and issue a decision."
Say, "Management evaluates complaints and issues decisions."

A good way to check yourself is to do a word search on 'will' and replace as many as possible. Some 'wills' are okay, but many - maybe even most - are not.

#2 - Use Active Voice

The lazy dog was jumped over by the quick brown fox.

You wouldn't say that, would you? Language is more lively when actors act.

Instead of, "Reports are prepared by HR."
Try, "HR prepares reports", or better yet, "HR reports".

#3 - Less is More

Extra words get in the way. When you write, be direct, specific, and not too verbose. Too many words turn a dip in a pond to a wade in a mud puddle. Which is easier?

Review and delete all additional extraneous or erroneous words.

Or this?

Remove extra words.

Comprehension improves when your writing has room to breathe, so look over your finished piece. Are your paragraphs like high rises or cottages? Go for cottages.

#4 - Small is better than big

If you are writing a college term paper and you want your professor to know you have mastered the vocabulary, go ahead and use big words; however, the goal is to communicate. Do not use a big word when a small one will do.

#5 - Make it Clean

With business writing in particular, readers may skim your content. Make it easy for them:

  • Use bullet points. Bullet points call attention to lists and make it easier to remember key points.
  • Subheads give the reader a clear path. Your audience may be looking for specific content.
  • Use a readable font in large enough type for all of your audience. Go for clear and crisp.
  • Use graphics as appropriate to clarify data or illustrate points.
  • Be consistent. If you use a red, 12-point Helvetica subhead at the beginning, use it throughout the document. Indent paragraphs consistently.

Bonus tip: be creative!

Vivid and lively words engage your audience. Even small changes make a big difference:

This? "Try our new peanut butter cookie."
Or this? "Sample our new peanut butter crunch cookie."

Writing can be fun and simple. Enjoy!