10 Quick Tips for Effective Business Writing

When you’re trying to grow a small business, your writing style may seem like the last thing you need to worry about. Who has time to worry about a blog post when you need to make payroll and get your product out the door?  Make time!  If you’re a startup with a small budget you need to make sure your communications connect with customers quickly. Follow these ten tips that will help you get your message across in a way that people will understand and remember:

1. Think about your reader. What’s in it for them? As my former coworker used to say, “you can’t make them read what you are writing, so you need to make them want to.” Don’t talk about how great your product and company are. Tell them what you can do for them.

2. Use one idea in a sentence. It’s not unusual for people to get carried away trying to fill their writing with meaning. But when they pack too many ideas into one sentence the reader comes away just as jumbled as the sentence itself. Deliver one message and deliver it well.

3. “Omit needless words.” This is as true today as when it appeared in the first version of “The Elements of Style” (circa 1918). Instead of “Our solution enables small businesses to do X” just say “We help small businesses do X”.  De-clutter your writing.

4. Drop the buzzwords. This is really, really hard for marketers who are living and breathing in the Kool-Aid. But words like leveraging, disrupting, brand equity, next generation, and paradigm shift are just gobbledegook. They don’t really mean anything. Say what you really mean.

5. Write the way that real people speak. In the interest of connecting with readers, it’s acceptable to forget some of the grammar that we learned in high school. Go ahead, start a sentence with “and.” Use sentence fragments. It’s okay. And skip words like “enables,” “moreover,” and “delights” that nobody really uses.

6. Don’t use exclamation points. Ever. Unless you want to sound like a high school girl. Then use them! Use them a lot! Use them all over the place!!! If you want people to take you seriously, they are best left with your first driver’s license and cheerleading uniform.

7. Use capitals, quotes, and commas correctly. It’s distracting when random words are capitalized. Or when words that should be plural are made possessive. You might love your sales team but there’s still no reason to use capitals every time you mention “Sales”.

8. Use spell check. I once knew a VP who left misspelled words in his emails because they made him seem folksy and approachable. They actually made him seem ignorant. And they were distracting to readers. Just press click on your mouse a few times and you are saved from embarrassing typos.

9. Be yourself. Your personality is what makes you unique, so don’t be afraid to share it in your writing. It will make your writing more memorable. So if you love music and you want to compare your product or service to Dolly Parton or a blowfish, go ahead. Chances are, no one’s done it before.

10. Read aloud before you post/print/send. If you stumble or something doesn’t make sense, you know you need to change it. This is the best way to spot typos. It’s also helpful to get a friendly co-worker to give it a read.

This post originally appeared on the award-winning Desk.com blog.

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