30 tip-top tips to shape up your business writing

1. Before you start to write, be sure you’ve done your homework including:

  • Define what your message must achieve
  • Get to know your audience very well
  • Understand how people will receive your message
  • Develop your message out of the right criteria (what do they need to hear, not just what you want to tell them)

2. Write as people speak, but don’t just write down a conversation

3. Write in terms of “we” and “us” or “I” and “me,” but don’t use a pompous “royal we” approach

4. Make every sentence relevant to the audience – “what’s in it for them?”

5. Wherever possible write to “you” – not to 3rd-person “customers,” “staff,” “suppliers,” etc

6. Don’t just get to the point – start with it, and phrase it so it will grab the audience’s attention

7. Say what you mean and don’t procrastinate with fuzzy language

8. Be informal but be careful not to be overly familiar

9. Use go words, not slow words – sharper nouns, stronger, shorter verbs

10. Use active rather than passive phrasing (“go to bed now,” not “it’s time you went to bed”)

11. Although simple is usually better, don’t over-simplify – it can seem childish or patronizing

12. Don’t go into more than one idea per sentence

13. Write so that one sentence flows logically into the next

14. One-word or verbless sentences are useful for pacing and effect, but only if you use them sparingly

15. Where possible start new paragraphs with links like “Of course,” or “However,” to keep the audience hooked

16. Use a list or bullet points to put across more than two or three items in a sequence

17. Keep jargon to a minimum and be sure your audience will understand what you do use

18. Avoid meaningless or valueless clichés because they make your writing seem unoriginal

19. Learn the difference between poor clichés and your business’s commonly used terms, and use the latter intelligently

20. Avoid adjectives and superlatives that smell phoney, e.g. “best,” “fastest,” “exciting” 

21. Use the most visual adjectives and adverbs you can think of – they’re powerful

22. Use “Plain English” wherever possible and especially when writing for audiences whose mother-tongue is not English

23. Especially with online text but with print too, avoid long blocks of text because they’re uninviting to read

24. Visually break up continuous sections of text by peppering them with cross-headings or emboldened key points

25. Keep online sentences and paragraphs short, and vary the length of offline sentences

26. Check for small grammatical and punctuation goofs – they make you look amateurish

27. Check for spelling mistakes and don’t rely totally on your spellchecker

28. Proofread your work backwards – it sounds crazy but you don’t miss spelling mistakes that way

29. Leave your text and do something else for a while, then go back and edit again if necessary

30. Show it to someone else if you’re unsure, but beware of “too many cooks spoiling the broth.”

And three more – big tips!

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

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  1. Brilliant tips thank you so much for sharing them.

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