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12 Tips for Better Business Writing

12 Tips for Better Business Writing

Today’s business world is almost entirely information-driven. Whether you run a small business or occupy a small corner of the org-chart at a massive multinational corporation, chances are that the bulk of your job consists of communicating with others, most often in writing. Of course there’s email and the traditional business letter, but most business people are also called on to write presentations, memos, proposals, business requirements, training materials, promotional copy, grant proposals, and a wide range of other documents.

Here’s the rub: most business people have little experience with writing. While those with business degrees probably did a bit of writing in school, it’s rarely stressed in business programs, and learning to write well is hardly the driving force behind most people’s desire to go to business school. Those without a university background might have never been pushed to write at all, at least since public school.

If you’re one of the many people in business for whom writing has never been a major concern, you should know that a lack of writing skills is a greater and greater handicap with every passing year. Spending some time to improve your writing can result in a marked improvement in your hireability and promotional prospects. There’s no substitute for practice, but here are a few pointers to put you on the right track.

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1. Less is more.

In business writing as in virtually every other kind of writing, concision matters. Ironically, as written information becomes more and more important to the smooth functioning of businesses, people are less and less willing to read. Increasingly, magazines and other outlets that used to run 2,000-word features are cutting back to 500-word sketches. Use words  sparingly, cut out the florid prose, and avoid long, meandering sentences. As Zorro taught his son, “Get in, make your Z, and get out!” – get straight to the point, say what you want to say, and be done  with it.

2. Avoid jargon.

Everyone in business hates business writing, all that “blue-sky solutioneering” and those “strategical synergies” that ultimately, mean nothing; “brainstorming” and “opportunities to work together” are more meaningful without sounding ridiculous. While sometimes jargon is unavoidable – in a business requirement document or technical specification, for example – try using plainer language. Even for people in the same field as you, jargon is often inefficient – the eye slides right past it without really catching the meaning. There’s a reason that jargon is so often used when a writer wants to not say anything.

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3. Write once, check twice.

Proofread immediately after you write, and then again hours or, better yet, days later. Nothing is more embarrassing than a stupid typo in an otherwise fine document. It’s hardly fair – typos happen! – but people judge you for those mistakes anyway, and harshly. Except in the direct emergency, always give yourself time to set your writing aside and come back to it later. The brain is tricky and will ignore errors that  it’s just made; some time working on something else will give you the detachment you need to catch those errors before anyone else reads them.

4. Write once, check twice.

I know, I just said this, but I mean something else here. In addition to catching typos and other errors, putting some time between writing and re-reading your work can help you catch errors of tone that might otherwise escape you and cause trouble. For instance, when we’re upset or angry, we often write things we don’t actually want anyone else to read. Make sure your work says what you want it to say, how you want it to say it, before letting it reach its audience.

5. Pay special attention to names, titles, and genders.

OK, there is one thing more embarrassing than a typo: calling Mr. Smith “Ms. Smith” consistently throughout a document. If you’re not positive about the spelling of someone’s name, their job title (and what it means), or their gender, either a) check with someone who does know (like their assistant), or b) in the case of gender, use gender-neutral language. “They” and “their” are rapidly becoming perfectly acceptable gender-neutral singular pronouns, despite what your grammar teacher and the self-righteous grammar nazi down the hall might say.

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6. Save templates.

Whenever you write an especially good letter, email, memo, or other document, if there’s the slightest chance you’ll be writing a similar document in the future, save it as a template for future use. Since rushing through writing is one of the main causes of typos and other errors, saving time by using a pre-written document can save you the  embarrassment of such errors. Just make sure to remove any specific information – names, companies, etc. – before re-using it – you don’t want to send a letter to Mr. Sharif that is addressed to Mrs. O’Toole!

7. Be professional, not necessarily formal.

There’s a tendency to think of all business communication as formal, which isn’t necessary or even very productive. Formal language is fine for legal documents and job applications, but like jargon often becomes invisible, obscuring rather than revealing its meaning. At the same time, remember that informal shouldn’t mean unprofessional – keep the personal comments, off-color jokes, and snarky gossip out of your business communications. Remember that many businesses (possibly yours) are required by law to keep copies of all correspondence – don’t email, mail, or circulate anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable having read into the record in a public trial.

8. Remember the 5 W’s (and the H)

Just like a journalist’s news story, your communications should answer all the questions relevant to your audience: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? For example, who is this memo relevant to, what should they know, when and where will it apply, why is it important, and how should they use this information? Use the 5W+H formula to try to anticipate any questions your readers might ask, too.

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9. Call to action.

The content of documents that are simply informative are rarely retained very well. Most business communication is meant to achieve some purpose, so make sure they include a call to action – something that the reader is expected to do. Even better, something the reader should do right now. Don’t leave it to your readers to decide what to do with whatever information you’ve provided – most won’t even bother, and enough of the ones who do will get it wrong that you’ll have a mess on your hands before too long.

10. Don’t give too many choices.

Ideally, don’t give any. If you’re looking to set a time for a meeting, give a single time and ask them to confirm or present a different time. At most, give two options and ask them to pick one. Too many choices often leads to decision paralysis, which generally isn’t the desired effect.

11. What’s in it for your readers?

A cornerstone of effective writing is describing benefits, not features. Why should a reader care? For example, nobody cares that Windows 7 can run in 64-bit mode – what they care about is that it can handle more memory and thus run faster than the 32-bit operating system. 64-bits is a feature; letting me get my work done more quickly is the benefit. Benefits engage readers, since they’re naturally most concerned with finding out how they can make their lives easier or better.

12. Hire a freelancer.

Not a writing tip per se, I know, but good advice nonetheless. Writing is most likely not your strong suit – if it’s important, hire someone for whom writing is their strong suit. You may think freelancers are only for marketing material, but that’s not true – a good freelance writer can produce memos, training manuals, internal letters, corporate newsletters, blog posts, wiki entries, and just about any other kind of writing you can think of. Depending on your needs, you can farm work out as needed or move a freelancer into a cubicle on-site, or work out whatever other arrangements best fit your needs. Expect to pay at least $30 an hour, and more likely $50 – $125 an hour, for good writing – anyone who charges less is either not very good, or not very business savvy. (These rates are for writers in US metro areas – rates may differ in other parts of the world.)

Great writing may require a talent that few of us have, but effective writing is a learnable skill. If your business writing isn’t up to snuff, follow the tips above and see if you can’t improve it. If your writing does pass muster, how about leaving a tip or two in the comments below?

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

3 Keys to Success in Life (That Will Change You in 2019)

3 Keys to Success in Life (That Will Change You in 2019)

Do you want to program your mind and hack your body to stay in a positive state, a state of action taking throughout the day? I suggest you read on.

We will look at 3 keys to success that successful people are doing that you can model to program your mind to be in the state of succeeding from the moment upon waking, and make decisions throughout the day that will lead you towards your desires.

The Biggest Obstacle to Success: Going on Autopilot

One of the biggest pitfalls in the modern society is to fall into the trap of going on autopilot, to be walking dead and do what everyone else are doing. Most of us are too busy reacting and responding to the environment and what’s happening around us.

While we should act and take charge of our own world and our own reality. We forget to stay focused and we forget about our goals.

Learn to be conscious. Being more conscious in your day-to-day decisions will lead you to take the appropriate actions to reach your goals.

Have a purpose with life, act according to your values, and don’t let people tell you what to do or how things should be.

When you start to make more conscious decisions, you will start to think about if this is going to take you closer to your goals or drift you further away.

Why are you doing what you’re doing right now? Why are you reading this? Nothing else to do? Or are you reading this site so you might pick up a thing or two to consciously incorporate in your life to improve yourself that will move you in the direction you want?

What are your goals? Be healthy? Lose weight? Be fit? Get the dream job? Have the dream house? Live the dream life? Make a certain amount of money? Start a family?

If you truly want to pursue these goals and actually see them come true, you need to start taking actions consciously.

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3 Keys to Success in Life (That You Can Start Doing Now)

There are 3 things we have to consciously start doing:

    Now I’ll show you how you can achieve each of them in details.

    1. Write down Your Goals

    The first thing you do in the morning will determine what your day is going to be like. Program your mind to be in a powerful state from the moment upon waking, and you are guaranteed to have a productive and great day.

    How you can do this is by writing your goals down, every morning. Then, once you’ve done that, circle the most important goal,  the goal that in the long-term will have the most impact on your life.

    Now ask yourself this question: “What actions can I make today that will change everything and take me closer to this goal?

    Write down all the actions you can think of, circle the two most important ones and start doing them. Don’t stop until it’s done.

    This is an extremely powerful method of getting in the right state first thing in the morning. Instead of wandering around half-dead and spending 30 minutes to wake up, you are hacking your mind to be productive.

    Another powerful reason for writing down your goals is that by reading them it makes us feel good, write them as if they’re already accomplished. You’re already there.

    Re-reading and re-writing them every morning will ensure you to be in a resourceful state where you act based on your goals. You will make conscious decisions throughout the day that will support your goals and take you closer to them.

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    Goals that are not written down are merely wishes. Learn how to set great goals here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

    The power of writing goals as if you’re already there takes us to point number 2.

    2. Create a Powerful Belief System

    Ask any successful person what their number one rule for succeeding is. They all have this in common:

    They believe in themselves and what they’re doing, and they are not afraid to say it.

    If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

    When people ask you about your goals in life, don’t be afraid to say it out loud. If you have high goals, they might laugh and look at you funny. But if you’re insecure about your goals, you will make insecure decisions that will lead you nowhere.

    Go against the grain, stand out. After all, how many people in the world today are actually living the dream? Now, how many of these people will respond something in the likes of “I don’t know” if you ask what their goals are?

    Be determined and believe in yourself. People will respect you for having the guts for going after what you truly desire.

    I once heard a story about a guy that worked in a video store. Every day he would bring two magazines to work, one was an entrepreneur magazine and the other was a magazine loaded with expensive and fast-riding cars. His boss would ask him why he was bringing these magazines to work every day and his answer was: “I’m picking out the car I’m going to buy.”

    The response from the boss was like most average minds saying he was killing himself thinking like that, he would never ever get that car and would just end up disappointed when it never happened.

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    Turned out, the guy later quit the job at the video store and followed his dream. Some years later he return to the video store to return a video, and he did so in the car he picked out from the magazine.

    The same people were working in the store as the day he used to work there. Now can you imagine the looks on their faces when he turned up in the car they said he never ever would get?

    Priceless. And it all started by creating a powerful belief system.

    The first step to living and achieving your dream is to believe it and imagine it. When you believe in your mind that you’ve already achieved your goals, you will develop a sense of certainty. That certainty will lead to action steps, when you know what the outcome is going to be it’s much easier to pick out the actions that are necessary to get there.

    You are certain you will live in the body you want.

    You are certain you will live in the dream house with the dream family.

    You are certain you will have the job you want, and earn the money you believe you’re worth.

    By constantly repeating in your mind the images of yourself succeeding, you create neural pathways in the brain. Your mind can’t tell the difference between what you vividly imagine and the reality.

    Go out and day dream. Go out and believe, imagine already living your dreams and goals. With enough repetition, you become certain that this is the only outcome and you work backwards to find ways for making it happen.

    The next step in personal success that will lead to life success and happiness is to..

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    3. Invest in Yourself

    A wise man was once asked what the best possible investment someone could make. His answer was short, sweet and simple: “Invest In Yourself.”

    The man’s name is Warren Buffett. He is known as the world’s greatest investor. According to Forbes, he has a net worth of $53.5 Billion.

    Hiring a personal coach, getting a membership at a gym, buying healthy foods, books and education are not expenses. They are investments: investments in yourself.

    Some things you can do today to invest in yourself are:

    • Go to the gym and train. Physical training releases endorphins and makes you feel great. It increases productivity and energy levels. By investing time in the gym, you’ll be better able to handle daily tasks and what life throws at you. Forty-five to fifty minutes is all you need, it’s actually the best time to shoot for in a workout.
    • Eat good food. When you go to the grocery store after work, ask yourself: “What foods will nourish my mind and body to feel and perform better?” You are setting yourself up for greatness and consciously making yourself aware of what foods will empower you, therefore make better decisions.
    • Start reading books. Everyone buys books, but very few actually reads them cover to cover.
    • Stop reading books and start studying them. Few read the books they buy, but even fewer remembers what they read. Stop reading books and start studying books.
    • Study at least one hour a day. “One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.” – Brian Tracy
    • Take notes. Never leave home without a pen and a piece of paper. The best ideas often comes in the least appropriate times, write them down. Don’t trust your mind to remember them—it won’t. Writing it down right away will also allow your mind to store and come up with more ideas. Nowadays, you can use plenty of notes-taking apps like Evernote.
    • Learn a new skill. Learn something new every day, a new skill or a new word. One new skill every day equals 365 new skills a year. Now imagine where you could be a year from now if you start doing it today?
    • Do something for yourself. Yes, hard work is a major factor for succeeding, but at least once per month do something fun, something outrageous and spontaneous that makes you feel alive. Have fun and enjoy yourself.

    The Crucial Rule to Follow

    The last piece of advice and rule to follow: Keep on, keeping on.

    Sometimes, things get hard and the road seems too long. You just have to keep on, keeping on.

    Revisit your goals and start imagining, all of the sudden you’ve changed your state and you’re on the right track again. The track that will take you to greatness.

    Use these 3 keys to create your destiny and achieve what you want in life.

    Go get it.

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    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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