Writing for Business

by Steve Roche

Common questions

  1. What is the best way to get started on a piece of writing?
  2. What’s the best way to structure a report?
  3. What should I look for when reviewing business writing?
  4. How can I make my writing more interesting and appealing?
  5. How do I make my work easier to read on the screen?
  6. Why should I proofread my work?

 

1. What is the best way to get started on a piece of writing?

Scope the task, so you know exactly what you are dealing with.

Break the job down into bite-sized pieces, so it looks and feels easier to manage.

Identify what else you need to have in order to get the job done.

Then begin wherever seems easiest.

  • Use simple language.
  • Avoid long paragraphs.
  • Use bullet points.
  • Write for short periods and take breaks.
  • Dedicate a specific amount of time to the writing.
  • Decide on a goal then give yourself a reward.

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2. What is the best way to structure a report?

State at the beginning what the report contains.

This may be a short paragraph or a full management summary. It should encapsulate the main ideas and conclusions.

Separate any detailed supporting information from the main body in an Appendix or a Resources section.

Produce a skeleton report with main headings and sub-headings – this makes it easier to complete the content.

Divide a subject into topics, each of which is dealt with in a paragraph. Each paragraph indicates a new step in the development of the subject.

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3. What should I look for when reviewing business writing?

Put yourself in the position of the reader to see what it’s like to read your material. Ask questions like:

  • What is assumed by the writer?
  • How will it make the reader feel?
  • What is the tone of the writing?
  • Who will the reader think is talking to them?

Rework the writing:

  • for clarity, understanding and conciseness,
  • cutting out redundant words, sentences and paragraphs,
  • including examples, diagrams, exercises or quotations and
  • looking for ways to make it enjoyable and different.

Read it out loud to ensure it flows. Invite reviews of your own work and use the feedback you get to improve it.

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4. How can I make my writing more interesting and appealing?

Break up the pages to make them visually attractive:

  • Use boxes, tables and diagrams.
  • Use varied fonts, headings, bold, emphasis, italics and colours.
  • Use bullet points.
  • Use plenty of white space and not too much information per page.

Keep the text lively:

  • Use simple and informal language.
  • Address the reader directly.
  • Vary sentence and paragraph length.
  • Use plenty of short words and phrases.
  • Use active rather than passive language.

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5. How do I make my work easier to read on the screen?

Write no more than half the text you would use in hardcopy, because people read from screens more slowly.

Make your writing clear, objective and free from hype.

Write so it’s easy to scan: don’t make users read long continuous blocks of text.

  • Structure articles with several levels of headlines.
  • Use meaningful headings.
  • Use highlighting and emphasis to catch the eye.
  • Use fonts developed for the screen, such as Verdana and Tahoma.
  • Limit the use of italics as they are harder to read on screen.

Keep summaries and key text short and succinct.

Put details, technical data and appendices into PDF files.

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6. Why should I proofread my work?

You should always check your work carefully for typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling before it is printed or published to ensure that readers will understand your intended message. Inaccurate, poorly drafted copy will give readers the impression that the organisation that created it is sloppy, and mistakes can be costly.

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