Business Writing Guide

First, don’t say, “I’m not a writer.” Writing is a skill that takes practice. Work at it, read more, and you’ll become a better writer. Or call a professional.  

Creative Commons "Proofreading marks example" by  Henry O  is licensed under  cc 2.0

Creative Commons "Proofreading marks example" by Henry O is licensed under cc 2.0

Never use a long word where a short one will do. No need to write “utilize” when “use” works. Nor should you say “general consensus of opinion,” when “consensus” will do. 

Use active instead of passive verbs. Instead of writing “The meeting was led by Tom”, write “Tom led the meeting.” Similarly, “There are three things we can do to improve sales” should be changed to “We can do three things to improve sales.”

Delete unnecessary words and phrases, such as

  • Basically
  • Very
  • Really
  • As I said before
  • In other words

Avoid acronyms. These shortcuts lead to confusion.

Never use cliches, and don’t use foreign phrases if you can use an English equivalent. Avoid jargon such as “actionable,” “core competency,” “incentivize,” among others. 

Before you write an e-mail, ask yourself what you want the recipient to do as a result of your e-mail. Simplify your writing around that goal. 

Don’t be afraid to use “me;” it’s often the correct choice. Is this sentence correct? “Please reply to John and I,” or “… to John and myself.” No. Read the sentence again after removing mentions of other people. “Reply to me” (not I or myself) is correct, and it sounds correct, too. 

It’s = it is (not a possessive)

They’re = they are

Spelling counts, always. If in doubt, choose a different word. 

No emojis in business writing. These are fun tools for texting, but should not be used in professional communication. 

How & Where - These Are As Important As "What" You Communicate