In today’s business world, writing is an essential skill that people need and use every day. Written communication, especially in the form of emails, remains the most used method for relaying information in business and this tradition shows no signs of ending anytime soon. According to a NASA survey, we may spend up to two -thirds of our working life in correspondence and trading info with others. This makes correct writing a vital skill to acquire.
Considering that billions of dollars are lost each year in the corporate world due to poor writing skills, we’ve put together this guide to help you better avoid the biggest mistakes in business writing.
Less is More
A common mistake people make when writing business memos and emails, is to think that they need to use overly complex sentences to sound “business-like”. This is definitely not the case – busy people at the receiving end of that email you’re writing will appreciate concise sentences with a clear purpose. So, before you start writing – take a moment to consider what you’re trying to say and condense the information down to its clearest form. But do take care to convey your entire message – being brief is a great aim for style but it should not be rated over substance.
You can practice writing in short and clear sentences here.
HBR Guide to Better Business Writing
How to Write It, Third Edition
Finding the Right Form
Not all written business communication is created equal. When talking to a regular client or supplier, for example, it’s advisory to start limiting the very precise and formal rules of English and opt for a more casual tone.
The same cannot be said for press releases, reports, or other documents intended for the wider public. In these cases, it is customary to use a more formal and impersonal tone. Sentences in the passive tense are preferred.
The choice of the right style and form really comes down to knowing your audience. It is difficult to give very precise instructions in this matter because the appropriate style can differ from company to company. If you’re lucky enough to be working in a very casual and relaxed workplace, you might even start an email to your boss off with “Howdy,” but that is not generally recommended. Guidelines become even more lax when it comes to talking about different industries – the internet scene, in general, is known for a rather informal writing style but banking and finance emails are still written used very proper English.
You’re or You Are
Contractions have been a topic of heated discussion in business writing for the past couple of years. Although it was previously considered bad form to use the shortened versions of you’re or it’s like in academic writing, this has now changed. Unless you’re writing a very formal (perhaps a complaint?) letter, using contractions is completely acceptable.
Just be sure to be fairly consistent in style throughout your writing. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to always contract your don’ts but keep in mind the audience you’re writing for and act accordingly.
Business writing in today’s world is a vital skill that you will use throughout your professional life. It’s better to start grasping the basics as soon as you can. Remember to keep your style consistent in your writing and focus on your intended audience. Contractions are completely fine but they need to fit in your overall writing.