Emails. Reports. Presentations. Recommendations.

In our everyday work lives, many of us write A LOT without even realising it. We use words to communicate emotions, things to be actioned, gossip (let’s be honest here), explanations, ideas,  weekend plans, and the list just goes on and on. Essentially, the reality is that you don’t have to be a professional writer to fully appreciate just how important words are. You don’t even have to wear a big button that says I LOVE WORDS.

You can however, take on board these four business writing tips. They may just take you from amateur to professional in your circle of colleagues (probably not – hard work and determination usually does the trick though).

Clarity is Key

Depending on your education, you may have been taught that using big, sophisticated words is the way to go. It’s not. Most of the time anyway. Mrs. Daly was oh-so-wrong.

When writing for business purposes, clear and concise writing is vital. Don’t assume that your colleague, client or boss has the time to read a two-scroll-length email. Or even one scroll for that matter. You know what, avoid scrolls at all costs. This principle also applies for reports and just about all other types of business writing. Unless it’s crucial information, cut it.

Write more concisely by having clarity in mind at all times. Do you really need to use the word utilised when use will do just as well? Do you really want to risk sending a confusing message all in the name of sounding ‘smart’? In case you were wondering, the answer to both questions is an emphatic NO.

Know your Audience

If you were paying attention, you’ll notice that I said most of the time in the above tip. This is because, at the end of the day, you write for your audience. If you know your boss or client loves and expects you to sound like a dictionary, then by all means, give him/her what they want! Similarly, if you are giving a presentation to a room full of corporate tax lawyers, then obviously your speech will be laden with jargon. Be aware of your audience and know that writing aims to please and satisfy.

Choose your Poison Carefully: Active vs. Passive

Another common train of thought floating around is that active voice (Lauretta prepared this report) is good and passive voice (This report was prepared by Lauretta) is bad. Let’s get things straight. While it is better, generally speaking, to use active voice, as it is clearer, there are times when passive voice can come to the rescue. For example, if you have to give negative feedback to an employee or want to minimise blame in a situation. Consider what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Use your Spelling and Grammar Checker!

One of the most obvious, over-stated and over-looked must-do things when it comes to writing is to use your spelling and grammar checker! In fact, this is so obvious and over-stated, there’s nothing more to be said. Seriously. Just use it. Use it well.