We live in an era of sound bites and 140 character messages, but good writing still matters when it comes to the business world.
Don’t think that good writing skills matter in this digital age of abbreviated texts and tweets? Consider a recent Grammarly study of 100 LinkedIn profiles. In the same 10-year period, professionals who received one to four promotions made 45 percent more grammatical errors than did professionals who were promoted six to nine times.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, manager or an employee aspiring to any of those positions, you need to know how to write effectively for business. Yes, that means paying attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation, along with good word choice and a consistent style.
Bad writing can have a wide-ranging, negative effect on your business, from creating a less-than-coherent business plan and hampering your efforts to attract investors, to communicating with employees, vendors and even your customers.
“If you are a native English speaker and never learned the difference between it’s and its,” Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover writes in a recent Harvard Business Review blog, “especially given access to Google, an employer might wonder what else you’ve failed to learn that might be useful.”
That quote could easily apply to entrepreneurs or small business owners seeking financial backing. Simply swap the word “employer” for “investor.”
In addition to the standard rules of grammar, these 10 tips – gathered from around the Web – can help you keep your business writing interesting and concise.
10 Tips for Better Business Writing
1. Get to the point. Avoid phrases such as “The purpose of this report that I am submitting today is …”
2. Replace passive “to be” verbs with lively, active words.
3. Provide concrete, compelling examples to back up your statements.
4. Use an organized story structure with a logical beginning, middle and end.
5. Don’t let your sentences go on forever. Hint: lots of commas are a sign of trouble.
6. Understand your reading audience. Peers, stakeholders and top execs each require a different tone and approach.
7. Leave time for revisions. Always read a document thoroughly, and then set it aside. Read it again the next day, and then make any necessary adjustments.
8. Don’t go crazy with fonts, boldface and italics. Your documents should be inviting and easy to read.
9. And don’t go crazy with capitalization. For example, capitalize the proper name of a company, but not a reference to “our company.”
10. Shoot for relaxed authenticity. For example, a judicious use of self-deprecating humor can help engage the audience.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor for Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.
Adapted from Don’t Let Poor Business Writing Kill Your Career, by Dennis McCafferty at Baseline Magazine. Follow Baseline Magazine on Twitter.