Strong communication skills are essential in virtually every industry, not just PR and marketing. The ability to write well is a sign of clear thinking, reflecting the ability to organize your thoughts and communicate them logically.
Even though employers ranked oral and written communication the fourth most important skill for job seekers in 2019, the truth is, bad writing is everywhere — and its effects cannot be denied. A typo-filled website or poorly crafted marketing message can negatively impact consumers’ perceptions of a brand. Colleagues known for sending long-winded emails might be viewed by their peers as weak communicators.
Taking steps to improve your writing skills doesn’t have to be difficult or painful. Start with these simple writing tips to learn how to write better.
Identify your audience and objective
Know why you’re writing and who you’re writing for. What’s appropriate for a corporate boardroom will seem stuffy and out of touch to consumers. While your boss may appreciate a high level of technical detail, getting into the weeds may bore potential customers and drive them away.
Have a clear idea of your target audience and objective, and tailor your tone and message accordingly. Your writing will be more likely to resonate with your readers and more effective at achieving its purpose.
Get to the point
Ditch the thesaurus. Resist the urge to tack on unnecessary clauses. It shouldn’t take your audience an hour to sift through pages of run-on sentences, jargon and unnecessarily big words. Good business writing isn’t about grandiose descriptions or complex sentence structure, it’s about clarity — and generally, that means getting to the point in as few words as possible.
Familiarize yourself with your organization’s editorial guidelines, or the style guide used by your industry. It doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you’re consistent. That means capitalizing all department names if your organization prefers it that way, or putting periods at the end of each bullet point. Cleaning up inconsistencies is the easiest way to make your writing appear more polished.
“Getting creative with language allows you to insert more personality and style into your writing. The trick is knowing when to follow the rules and when to bend them.”
Edit, edit, edit
It’s nearly impossible to achieve perfection on the first try, yet many people treat their rough draft like a final product. Editing requires time and patience, but it makes all the difference between a mediocre, meandering draft and a polished piece of work.
Review your writing to fix typos, grammatical errors and redundancies. Break down run-on sentences to simplify and clarify. Delete what you don’t need, even if you like the way it sounds. Ask yourself: does this sentence serve a purpose for my audience? If the answer is no, get rid of it. Leave your ego out of the process and force yourself to be critical.
Avoid these words
Vague modifiers like “really,” “very” and “so” don’t add much to a sentence, and they don’t belong in business writing. Remove them to make your statements more impactful.
Find stronger alternatives to weak adjectives like “good,” “bad,” “nice,” and “great.” You can do better than that.
Don’t use jargon, unless you are writing specifically for an industry audience. And even then, use it sparingly to avoid sounding like you’re trying to prove how much you know.
Break the rules — intentionally
Grammar rules exist for a reason. That being said, you can break those rules to great effect — as long as you are doing so intentionally and judiciously.
So, go ahead. Start your sentence with a conjunction like “so,” but” or “and.” Use sentence fragments. Split infinitives. Getting creative with language allows you to insert more personality and style into your writing. The trick is knowing when to follow the rules and when to bend them. Generally, an informal, conversational tone gives you greater flexibility with grammar usage, but it all goes back to knowing your audience. Just don’t overdo it, or your intentional rule-breaking could make you look like an inept writer.
By incorporating these tips into your writing process, you can improve your business writing and become a clearer, more concise and more compelling communicator.