There are many things that can derail an employee’s career, but one of the fastest means to a promotion dead end is poor business writing. Not only does poor business writing impact an employee’s promotion possibilities, it also damages an organization’s credibility.
Here are five simple business writing rules that all employees from the front line to executive staff should live by:
Write clearly. Doing so lets readers know we have thought about our message. It also allows us to equip the reader to infer what we intend. In addition, we send a positive message regarding our organization’s values, and we minimize rework which increases productivity. I have often heard employees say, “I need to hurry and get this memo out!” Hurrying and business writing simply do not go together. Writing clearly takes time, which ironically, saves time.
Write concisely. Eliminate unnecessary words. Do not use long, wordy phrases when a single word will do. For instance, use “now” rather than “at this time.” Use only relevant facts. There is a tendency to think that more information increases the likelihood of a greater impression. That is simply not true. Concise information that is organized and flows effectively has a much greater chance of keeping the reader’s interest while conveying your intended message.
Write completely. Have you ever received instructions that are missing a step? If you have, you know how frustrating that can be. The same is true for business writing. Complete your thoughts. Include appropriate contact information. Anticipate questions a reader might have and write proactively. This does not mean you have to write an encyclopedia! Creatively use white space and do not be afraid to use bullet lists, tables, or text boxes to draw attention to specific information points.
Write correctly. It is critical that you check spelling, grammar, noun/verb agreement, etc. One misspelled word, or one grammatical error could derail a major business deal, lead to an audit, set a criminal free, or potentially cost someone his or her job. Do not rely exclusively on spell check, and do not simply glance over a document prior to sending. One trick is to read backwards. Doing so forces you to look at the document differently and may help you catch an error that you may have missed the first or second time through.
Write courteously. Even if you have to deliver bad news, do so courteously. “Please” and “thank you” are two of the most powerful expressions in the English language. Use them consistently as a means of communicating dignity and respect, regardless of your intended audience.
Let’s keep the conversation going. What business writing tips would you offer if you were teaching a class on the topic?