The 4 Rules of Business Writing
Every professional needs to know how to write. We might be biased because Signature involves a lot of writing, but think about how much you write each and every day. Most people send hundreds of emails, send updates and memos, create reports, give speeches, make presentations, and more.
If you’re in a technical role, you’re documenting your work and developing specs. If you’re in sales, you’re writing proposals and business cases. If you’re in marketing, you’re coming up with blog posts, white papers, ebooks, website and ad copy, and so forth. If you’re in customer support, you’re answering questions over email or chat. If you’re in recruiting, you’re crafting internal policies and announcements. If you’re in finance, you’re producing financial reports.
That means being able to write isn’t just nice—it’s necessary.
Luckily, you don’t need to be Dickens, Austen, or Hemingway. Follow these four rules, and you’ll get your point across effectively.
1. Write Less
The golden rule of writing: Use as few words as possible. Your audience will understand what you’re trying to say more easily if you use 10 words rather than 20.
After you’ve written something, reread it looking for overly complex or long sentences.
For instance, maybe you wrote: “In order to decrease our reliance on an increasingly unstable platform, we should start storing new data in a different system as soon as possible.”
That could be rewritten as: “We should store new data in a different system to decrease our reliance on our current unstable one.”
The second version is much simpler and comprehensible.
If you’re struggling to use fewer words, ask yourself, “How would I explain this idea to an eight-year-old?”
2. Avoid Jargon
Jargon clutters up your writing and makes you sound silly. It’s tempting to use buzzwords like “circle back,” “deliverables,” “touch base,” “synergize,” “low-hanging fruit,” “boil the ocean,” and so on because they’re convenient and catchy, but spend an extra second thinking of an alternative.
Here’s an example.
Before: “Since we’re a small team trying to keep all the balls in the air, I wear many hats on a weekly basis.”
After: “Since we’re a small team and there’s a lot to do, I work on pretty varied projects week-to-week.”
3. Favor Short Words
Short words are better than long words. We know, that flies in the face of common knowledge; we’re taught that long words “sound smart.”
If a bigger word is perfect for what you’re trying to say, keep it in. However, if you’re stuffing your writing with SAT vocabulary to seem intelligent, you’re probably going to fail.
Compare these two sentences. Which one do you prefer?
A: “Over an extended period of time, my coworkers and I observed a troubling phenomenon occurring with our most lucrative cohort of customers.”
B: “Over several months, my coworkers and I noticed something troubling happening with our most profitable customers.”
The second comes across as less pretentious or pedantic, which ironically makes the writer seem more intelligent.
4. Don’t Use Contrasts
We used to introduce a contrasting thought with “however,” “but,” “nonetheless,” “yet,” and so on. We’ve learned to cut these out; writing experts say a contradictory thought should be obvious.
Steering clear of these terms will help you use fewer words and write simpler sentences. It’s not a hard and fast rule, so use one if your point will be less clear without the phrase.
About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the eighth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 14th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 26 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit www.sigconsult.com.