Five simple tips to improve your business writing skills
Whether you work for yourself or someone else, it’s no secret that good writing is an essential skill at work. Clear, concise writing is essential for emailing a client, creating a proposal, report writing or compiling a blog post to drive traffic to your website.
So if you’re a working mum or mumtrepreneur, but words don’t come naturally to you, then don’t despair. There is a lot you can do improve your business writing skills.
Know your Audience
Before you start any piece of writing, consider who you’re writing for. If your industry is very technical, for example, will potential customers understand as much about it as you do, or will you need to explain in more detail? Will they get industry jargon and acronyms?
Ask yourself: what do my readers want to get out of this piece? What type of information will they be looking for? This will help you make sure what you’re writing is relevant.
At the same time, think about why you are trying to achieve – reach new customers, nurture a long-term relationship with an existing client?
Keep it focused
Trying to cram too many ideas into one piece can lead to rambling, unfocused writing which is boring to read and doesn’t communicate well.
It’s a good idea to decide on one or two messages/topics that you want to cover before you start, then keep them in mind as you’re writing. If anything doesn’t fit, ask yourself whether it belongs in that piece of writing at all. It may need to be put in a separate section or somewhere entirely different.
If you’re struggling to focus, try this trick: if this was a newspaper article, what would the headline be?
Make it look good
Long blocks of text are boring for your reader, so it’s worth breaking up your piece. This includes:
- Keeping paragraphs very short and making sure there are spaces between paragraphs. This will create lots of ‘white space’ on the page which is more appealing to read
- Putting information under bullet points
- Breaking your writing up with small sub-headings (similar to the ones used in this piece)
- Using a picture, graph, diagram or infographic to enhance your message
- Don’t use big words (for the sake of it)
You might be tempted to make your writing sound better by tapping up a thesaurus. However, cramming big words in for no good reason can have to opposite effect, making writing awkward and more difficult to understand. And if you use an unfamiliar word, you may even get the meaning slightly wrong.
Don’t write ‘utilise’ when you mean ‘use’. Why say “our businesses would be very synergistic” when you mean “we’d work well together”?
Catch those typos!
Even the most informative, well-written piece will fall flat if it contains errors. Speling mistaiks and tyops are obvious to your reader but can be difficult to pick up yourself.
If you can, ask someone to proofread it for you. Otherwise, try some of these methods:
- Leave the document for a while, overnight if you can, so you can return with ‘fresh eyes’
- Print it out (on scrap paper of course!) and read it back
- Read it out loud (there are even programs which read PDFs to you)
- Change the font type, colour or size to make it look different
- Try reading it upside-down (strange but works for some people).
Even the best writers can overuse certain words. ‘Just’, ‘actually’ or ‘probably’ are all examples of words you might slip in without thinking, but which will weaken your writing. Try creating a Wordcloud to see if there are any words you are overusing.
Grammarly is another great tool for picking up mistakes in your writing.
If business writing is proving difficult then remember a little preparation, a little technique and a bit of a helping hand can improve your skills dramatically.
About the author
Alexandra Vanags is an experienced content producer and copywriter who helps businesses communicate their stories through websites, blog posts, newsletters and more. She is based on the Northern Beaches and is mum to two little girls. Read more about her at alexandrav.com.au