Seven Tips for Successful Business Writing

Avoid Confusion With These Seven Success Tips For Business Writing

“This email makes no sense at all…”

How many times have you received an email/message read it and had this thought? Quite likely more than once! And that’s a problem. How many different documents do we churn out at work? Lots of emails, plus reports, proposals, minutes etc. Every single one of them needs to be accurate in terms of spelling, punctuation and grammar. But that is just the start, in this article we’ll look at seven simple steps we can take to producing writing that reads well and communicates the points intended saving us from misunderstandings and lost productivity.

History is littered with examples of major fails due to poor communication, an oft used example being the Charge of The Light Brigade and the breakdown of understanding between Lord Raglan and Sir George Cathcart at a critical intersect of the battle. Remember that every message sent acts as an ambassador for you and your company. It creates an impression not just of you, but of the whole organisation. So let’s get it right!

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  1. Proofreading & checking
    Wehn we raed wrods, we dno’t raed each and evrey letetr. Our brains have a talent for making sense from nonsense. We don’t look inside words, we just look at the shape of the word. If the first and last letters look right, we can work out what the word is. If any letters are in the wrong order, without thinking we unscramble them – we don’t see the mistake!

I recommend proofreading and checking, although often, people just use spellchecker. But it won’t always save you. If I’m typing quickly, ‘from’ becomes ‘form’. And I’ve met plenty of managers who are definitely not ‘mangers’! Here are some top tips to help with your proofreading:

  1. Take a break! Allow time between writing and proofreading. Give yourself a chance to forget what you wrote. If you proofread immediately, you’ll just see what you think is on the page. Or, find a proofreading buddy. A fresh pair of eyes checking your work will pick up mistakes you’ve missed.
  2. Use a pointer. Running your pen or finger along each line underneath the words will force you to slow down, look inside the words and spot the errors.
  3. Check spelling, punctuation and grammar. If you find a mistake, correct it then rewind a little to the beginning of the sentence. There may be 2 mistakes right next to each other, and you might miss the second one.
  4. Use a cover to limit what you can read. Use a ruler or a piece of paper and place it over the document. As you proofread, move it down the page, revealing the lines one by one.
  5. Read it backwards! This is a very useful proofreading technique. Start at the end of each paragraph and read backwards. The message will be lost, so you can focus on checking the words.
  6. Final check – is the message intact? You’ve made changes – does the document still say what you want it to say?

In summary, we should be proofreading and checking every document we create. Think of it as short-term sacrifice for long-term benefits like efficiency and productivity not only for you but for the recipients of your messages. Remember how you feel when you’re reading an unintelligible email – what impression do you have of the writer? Good lcuk!