Breaking Bad Business Writing Habits

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
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


Related articles:
Web Writing S.O.S.
Sell With Words: 10 Tips
Spooky Fact: Bad Writing Kills Profit

Garner, Bryan A. HBR Guide to Better Business Writing. Harvard Business Review Press.
Adams, Susan. “8 Keys To Better Business Writing.” January 18, 2013.