Breaking Bad Business Writing Habits
October 22, 2013
Bad habits – like using jargon, acronyms and clichés – ruin business communications like Walter White’s drug empire ruined lives. In our digital world of 140-character messages, bad writing habits lead to ineffective communications that readers ignore.
To break bad habits and create clear communications your audience will read, use these tips:
- Know why you’re writing: Understand your objectives, including the audience you’re targeting and the goal you want to achieve.
- Understand your readers: Since all readers are busy, get to the point quickly, focus on relevant information and use a tone suitable for your audience. Imagine you’re writing to someone who is smart but not a specialist in your field.
- Write fast: Motor through your first draft – just do it. Don’t wait for inspiration or strive for perfection. If you’re stuck, skip a section then come back to it.
- Edit thoughtfully: When reviewing your work, consider whether it is: honest, thorough, tactful, clear, interesting and fluid.
- Be incredibly clear: Show, don’t tell. Illustrate your points with specific examples to help readers understand your message.
- Avoid business-speak: Readers roll their eyes and gag at the sight of overused terms, including “mission-critical,” “think outside the box” and “leverage.” Instead, choose direct, thoughtful words.
- Relax the tone: Business people are still people. Instead of using wooden, academic writing, use contractions for a natural tone. Vary the length and structure of your sentences. Write as though you’re talking to the person face-to-face.
What else would you add to the list to enhance business writing quality?
Lisa Goller helps businesses tell their story. As a Toronto-based Strategic Freelance Writer & Editor, she helps executives and entrepreneurs stand out, look good and save time. Learn more at lisagoller.com
Garner, Bryan A. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing. Harvard Business Review Press.
Adams, Susan. “8 Keys To Better Business Writing.” Forbes.com. January 18, 2013.