Business writing must be lucid and unambiguous. Readers of a proposal, report, memorandum, or any other type of business-related document must be able to glean the essential information rapidly and without impediments. The writing need not be literary or clever, but it must exemplify clear, concise, correct composition skills.
Although developing good writing skills requires time and practice, and even though there are dozens of types of errors that even a good writer may fall victim to, the following five writing tips should prove to be helpful in terms of turning out a good piece of writing every time:
1. Think about what you want to convey before you put fingers to your keyboard or your pencil to paper. This may be obvious, but many writers, those in and out of business, sometimes write before they think. Of course, one of the many benefits of Microsoft Word and other document processing applications is that the writer can easily rework documents over and over again, but, still, it is a good idea to allow the ideas that you want to transmit to percolate for a while before you actually start writing. Some people find writing an outline to be helpful, whether it is a formally designed one or simply a list of ideas. Others prefer to write from notes. Some people are able to put together cogent, well-written documents without the aid of any planning. However, you should always stop, and think before you write.
2. Use paragraphs. In other words, at some point during the writing process, you should make sure your document, unless it contains fewer than 300 words, is divided into paragraphs, each of which addresses a particular idea or focus or topic. A page-length document that is composed of one paragraph may look intimidating to the reader. It may also cause confusion on the reader’s part, if several issues are discussed. Each individual idea should be the topic sentence of its own paragraph. For example, if the main issue of your piece of writing is the new employee health insurance plan, then the first paragraph should be the introduction, in which you explain, in general terms, the fact that there is going to be a new plan. Your second paragraph should explain why the change is occurring, and subsequent paragraphs should discuss specifics, such as dates for the changeover, differences between the old plan and the new one, the process of changing plans, etc.
3. Use capital letters only where they belong. Some writers think that every important word or every work-related position in a sentence should be capitalized, as in the following example:
There will be Two Tiers in the Pharmacy Benefits Plan in the New Medical Plan. All Auditors in the Billing Department and all Section Heads will be enrolled in the Gold Tier Plan, while all other employees will be members of the Silver Tier Plan.
In terms of the use of capital letters, only proper nouns need to be capitalized. In the above example, only Gold Tier Plan and Silver Tier Plan should be capitalized because they are unique names which designate the specific plans.
4. Use proper punctuation. Do not overuse commas. They are used mainly for the following purposes: to separate clauses, when listing objects, and when writing dialogue. Quotation marks are not needed and are, in fact, incorrect when they are used to frame important words, as in the following:
All employees must fill out the “Employee Health Insurance Changeover Form” during the “Designated Employee Assignment Period.”
Quotation marks are used for dialogue and for the titles of short creative works, not to emphasize important ideas.
5. Do not assume the reader knows what you are trying to say. Carefully read what you have written as if you had not written it. Are you ideas clear and forthcoming? Have you provided enough explanatory information for your points to be understood? Have you given examples, where necessary? If not, then you must amend your document. There is no point writing something, if those who read it do not understand what you are trying to say.
When you have completed your writing, carefully, very carefully proofread what you have written. Read your document word-for-word. That is the only way in which to catch spelling, punctuation, usage errors, missing words, repetitive thoughts, and dozens of other blunders that can cloud the meaning of what you are trying to say. Of course, you should use the spell check function on your word processing program. It will catch most, but not all of your errors.
This list of Five Writing Tips is only, of course, a cursory attempt to help you to write carefully. Referring to a writer’s handbook or a high school English usage book may be helpful. If, when all is said and done and written, and you are not sure that you have gotten your points across clearly or if you think you may not have caught all of your English usage errors, you may submit your document to Proof-reading.com for expert editing.