Business-related documents, such as reports, memos, and policy papers, are always aimed at accomplishing a specific purpose. They are generally written to explain a policy, correct a procedure, report results, or some other clearly defined chore. The following is a list of rules that, if followed, may help you to write clear, coherent business documents that fulfill their purposes.
- Clarify your role: Before you begin to even think about your topic, make sure you are the appropriate one to be writing about it. You would not want to step on anyone’s toes in terms of addressing your topic.
- Define your thoughts: Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you should clearly define your thesis or premise or at least the goal of your writing effort. Your thinking should go beyond “Developing a new employee vacation policy” or “Coming up with a sales incentive plan.” Before you start writing, a process which, if done correctly, involves a great deal of effort, you should attempt to clarify your thoughts and your direction. This may involve writing notes or putting together an outline. The more time and effort you devote to your pre-writing thinking, the more likely it is that your document will be logical, clear, and effective.
- Conduct some research: You may not need to look far or deeply, but remember, a carefully researched paper is generally more credible than one which reflects only your point of view. Research may involve consulting the Internet or published sources or company files. It may also involve formal or informal surveys of those in your place of business or those with whom your firm does business.
- Develop a working title: This may not be the one you end up using when you publish or email or submit your work, but it will help to guide your writing. For example, the title “Revised Employee Vacation Policy for ABC Corporation” clearly outlines what you want to say. In the course of your writing, if you decide that you have varied from your working title, you should either refine the parameters of your document (and, possibly, excise the extraneous material so that it can be used in another document) or, if you want to retain what you have written, you may want to rename your document.
- Follow your outline or notes: This does not mean that you should not branch out and stray from what you have written in note or outline form, but, on the other hand, you should not simply ignore what you jotted down during the planning stage of your writing. Sometimes, during the blizzard of thoughts that may hit you during the process of writing, you may forget important points about which you had written notes.
- Spread your wings: Do not hold yourself back while you are writing. Let your thoughts flow. You can correct your spelling, punctuation, etc. afterwards.
- Examine your work with a magnifying glass: Not really! But, once you have finished writing, the first reading of your document should be a careful, word-for-word, sentence-for-sentence attempt at proofreading. During this reading, you should be more concerned with spelling, grammatical, punctuation, and vocabulary errors than with style and flow. This is the time to correct any and all technical errors. You may, of course, as you are correcting errors, rewrite and delete sentences and add new material.
- The second reading should involve improving the clarity of the document. During this reading, you should attempt to upgrade your vocabulary. For example, you may decide to replace “get” with “obtain,” “attain,” or more academic or professional-sounding synonyms.
- The third reading should be done as if you are a member of the target audience. This is the time to determine whether the document is clearly written, to-the-point, and error-free. You should eliminate repetition and unnecessary words and phrases. You may want to print your document and read it from the paper. This may allow you to spot errors that you missed while reading your document from the monitor.
- Spell check or/and submit your paper to a professional editing service.
Remember, your business document must be clear, concise, to-the-point, and well written. It should clarify important aspects of your business and it should reflect your best effort.