No matter what you’re writing—a report, a memo, an email for your boss to sign—you want it to be clear and effective. Hone your professional writing skills with these expert tips.
1. Get to the point. Putting the most important information first is key, says Linda B. Gretton, assistant professor of strategic communication at High Point University. If you’re writing a one-page memo, put your conclusion first and add supporting data later, she says.
2. Summarize. For longer reports, write an executive summary at the beginning, Gretton says. An executive summary can stand on its own, and people can get the main points quickly if they don’t have time to read the full report right away.
3. Break up the text. Use bullet points, numbered lists or bold or italic fonts to highlight what’s important, Gretton says. This can help your boss save time by making it easy to pick out key information.
4. Be brief. Practice writing on sticky notes, recommends John Znidarsic of Adcom. “Every email, PowerPoint slide or comment in the meeting should have only one clear message. If you can’t fit it on a 2-inch-by-2-inch space, it probably won’t fit into someone’s short attention span.”
5. Remember your audience. A report for an entire department will be written differently than a quick memo to your boss. Not thinking about your reader’s knowledge or interest can make your writing less effective, says Susan Rooks of Grammar Goddess Communication. Keeping the audience in mind will help you target your message.
6. Cut the jargon. People often use big words or business jargon in an effort to look more intelligent, Rooks says. Instead, it ends up distracting from your core message. Cut back on buzzwords and focus on clear phrases that say what you mean.
7. Seek help. Workshops and classes can be helpful for perfecting your professional writing, says Steven Kendus, a corporate communications expert. In addition, enlist a second set of eyes to help you find errors or unclear phrases that you didn’t notice.