Business English Quick Tips: negative writing


Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Negative writing

We’ve all heard of the “half empty versus half full” concept and how which way you look at it can determine what sort of person you are. When it comes to business writing, though, we can’t afford any of the so-called “woo-woo” pseudo-psychological aspects of positivity. Being positive is a very important and basic part of keeping the show on the road, especially in areas like employee communications and PR (public relations).

Negative writing in business can generate a number of undesirable emotions in the reader, ranging from fear through to hostility and resentment. However it doesn’t take much to turn what could be seen as threatening or downbeat text, into something that removes or reduces the bad stuff.

For example…


This report is of no use to me whatsoever; obviously you haven’t spent enough time on it.


I think it would be helpful if you were to spend some more time on this report, so it addresses more closely what we need.


It doesn’t look like I’ll have everyone’s input on time for the sales meeting


I’d appreciate it if everyone can make sure they get their input to me in time for the sale meeting

Another (related) form of positive writing – and thinking, for that matter – that can work wonders in the business world is knowing how to feature the best in what might otherwise be considered negative announcements and/or developments.

John Butman, an American business writer I worked with some years back and with whom I wrote a book called “Writing Words That Sell,” was an absolute genius at turning negative business communication into text that was as positive as possible. I’m sure he won’t mind if I share this example of his from the book.

The example was to show readers how to structure a speech, to be given by the CEO to all staff of the company, breaking some rather worrying news…the company was to relocate to southern Greenland. Here’s how John sought to make this news and its explanations as positive as possible in the circumstances:

  • We’re going to talk today about some exciting new prospects for our company
  • We know that business today is changing rapidly
  • We know that the growth of electronics, in particular, has had a major effect on the nature of component module units
  • This has led us to develop the new ZX90-E CMU which incorporates a special systems element for electronic connections
  • We are so excited about the potential of the ZX90-E that we have decided to expand into new markets
  • The most exciting market for the new electronic style flange covers happens to be in southern Greenland
  • We believe that, by concentrating on the south Greenland market, we shall double our growth in the next three years
  • If we can achieve this goal, we shall be in an excellent position to expand, raise salaries and offer profit-sharing opportunities to all employees
  • That is why we have decided to relocate our corporate headquarters and all manufacturing operations in southern Greenland
  • Because you are so important to us, we wanted you to be the first to know about this change
  • This change of operations does not mean that there will be mandatory redundancies – we would be delighted to move the entire staff to southern Greenland
  • Naturally, for those of you who do not wish to relocate, we have a generous separation program
  • For those of you who can make the move with us, we look forward to a great new period of prosperity and growth
  • We believe that, in this changing business world, we are making the right move at the right time
  • Thank you very much

You can see more about John and his work on his website, here:

Now: for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More next week … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!