As I am growing in a leadership career, I am finding that I am reading and writing more business documents than code.
I studied for years on how to write code before writing it professionally. I never did that for business writing. Therefore, I decided that i should learn that. I picked a couple high rated udemy classes to get me going. The goal was to identify 5 things I can immediately apply to all important documents I or my teams write.
This article is about sharing those learnings from my perspective. I will talk about 5 key things that I am taking away from my quick education about business writing.
#1: Be clear:
Use clear english. Use the right words in the right way to make a clear point. It means using clear, small words that do the job.
- Have a clear understanding of why you are writing. Why should anyone care? What do you want from your audience?
- Use small sentences. It’s hard to maintain the flow in longer sentences and they are often unclear. They fail to communicate clearly.
- Use Active voice i.e. Subject predicate Object. Active voices are direct, more influential. They keep the reader engaged.
- Use simple words. Don’t use complicated words when a simple one does the job. Don’t try to be smart. Try to make your reader feel smart.
#2: Structure is very important:
Think about how you will structure your data. What is the flow of your document? Is the most important information hidden or highlighted? Chances are there is too much information in your document causing ambiguity or reducing interest. Is written communication the best way to handle this topic?
#3: Have Empathy:
You are writing because you want your readers to do something. Potentially differently. In other words, you are writing to influence or make a point. It’s best to always assume
- Your readers are busy so you have to make it easy for your readers to read your work.
- It should be inclusive, avoid jargons if you have doubt that they won’t understand (consider audience, think if they are from diverse background, new to the org etc)
- Have the most important information first (Objective, Action, TL;DR), followed by supporting facts and reasoning.
- Clearly mention the intent if you are requesting someone to do something by a certain time.
#4: Polish your work:
- The higher the stakes, the more time it needs polishing. It is important. No one likes to read just a blurb of text. Especially not busy people.
#5: Review, Review and Review:
- Review that your document hits the point you are trying to make.
- Review for grammar and spelling mistakes (I make them the most)
- Review the audience set again before sending and check for inclusion/empathy
- If stakes are high, consider a peer review
- Let it bake. Put your document aside for a while, revisit it and you will find that you may have a new perspective.
I found these ~6 hours of investment incredibly helpful. Practice makes skill better, so I plan to practice by writing articles such as this. If you typically write to advocate some action. I strongly recommend some education behind business writing skills