When dashing off your next memo, report or e-mail, cut right to the core points. Readers see your writing as a reflection of how you think, so keep it direct and logical.
HR directors from half of the 120 major American corporations polled in a recent study said they consider writing ability when making promotions. "You can't move up without writing skills," one HR director said. And he doesn't mean only accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.
The academic writing style that served you well in school or college won't cut it in the workplace, where clarity and conciseness rule. Follow these guidelines to write more clearly and concisely:
1. Keep sentences short & sweet. The average businessperson prefers to read on an eighth-grade level. Accommodate that preference by keeping sentences to no more than 15 words. If a sentence runs longer, try to carve it in two.
2. Never use a long word when a short one will do. Go back through your memo or report and replace difficult-to-read multisyllable words with one- or two-syllable ones. Examples: Replace "illustrate" with "show" and "facilitate" with "run" (as in "run the meeting").
3. Write in active voice, not passive. Example: Change "It was argued by the customer that an error was made by the shipping department" to "The customer argued that the shipping department had erred."
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4. Rescue "swallowed verbs." To many people, "business writing" means turning perfectly good verbs into noun phrases ... which may seem professional but only muddies your writing. Examples: Change "submitted an application" to "applied"; and "gave authorization" to "authorized."
5. Eschew "make" and "made." Technically, this falls under "swallowed verbs," but it's so common that it deserves a rule of its own. Examples: Change "make a decision" to "decide"; "made a recommendation" to "recommended"; "make a copy" to "copy"; "made an error" to "erred."
6. Abandon weak "there is/there are" introductory phrases. Most of the time, they're unnecessary and only obscure your sentence's subject. Examples: Change "There are four copies of this on your desk" to "Four copies of this are on your desk"; change "There is no one who loves his work like Mr. Deeds" to "No one loves his work like Mr. Deeds."
With Business Writing That Gets Results, you'll find examples of effective (and ineffective) business writing, tips to getting the most out of few words and steps to follow so you can make sure every base is covered.
You'll also learn:
- The key difference between business writing and all other written communications
- The most common errors in style and usage
- How to structure a presentation or report to get the results you want
- When to use a table and when to use a graphic
- The best approach to revision and why it is so important
- What you need to check before you click “send”
- PLUS "13 Quick Tips to Polish Your Business Writing"