Writing for Business

by Steve Roche

In a nutshell

1.Getting started

If you have trouble getting started on a piece of writing, it is usually a question of motivation, so get clear about

  • the purpose of the piece you need to write
  • the outcome you are seeking by doing this writing
  • the benefits that you will get once it is done...



2. A process for writing

  • Identify the purpose of the piece
  • Define the scope
  • Create a plan for the piece
  • Write a first draft
  • Review and rework
  • Seek feedback


3. Write for your audience

There is always an audience and it is their reaction to your writing that counts, so write for your audience, not yourself.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • What is important to them?
  • What action do you want them to take?


4. Readability and style

  • Don’t use the thoughtless and formulaic phrases too often found in business writing
  • Think about the meaning you want to convey
  • Review your writing
  • Think about how the reader will react
  • Calculate the ‘fog factor’ to gauge readability


5. Some common mistakes

  • Make sure you use apostrophes correctly.
  • Abbreviations – is it Mr. or Mr?
  • Colons and semi-colons
  • Dangling modifiers – what are they?
  • Check your verbs – do they agree with the subject and is the tense correct?
  • Some commonly confused words
  • Should you use ‘-ise’ or ‘-ize’?


6. Illustrative material and design

  • Make sure that any illustrative material complements your writing
  • Use captions to full effect


7.Writing to influence

  • Ensure your writing will be understood by the target audience
  • Consider the benefits to them of taking the proposed action


8. Writing reports and proposals

  • Find the document structure accepted within your organisation and use it
  • Keep your writing simple and direct
  • Consider the visual impact of the pages
  • Be careful with jargon and buzzwords
  • Always think of the audience


9. Writing business letters

A letter may be needed, rather than an email or a phone call, when:

  • organisational culture requires it
  • an audit trail is needed
  • communicating with someone who is not online
  • it is part of a legal process or formal protocol
  • you need proof that the person has received it.


10. Writing emails

  • Be careful: the ease and speed of emails can be a trap for the unwary
  • Make your email message easy to read; it’s probably one of hundreds that the recipient will read in a week
  • Is email the best way to say this?
  • Take care about confidentiality when forwarding emails
  • Use an email signature
  • Check before you send


11. Writing for the computer screen

  • Be succinct
  • Use an appropriate font and font size
  • Break up blocks of text
  • Understand that your reader will probably scan the content rather than read it word by word


12. Writing a press release

An editor will likely receive hundreds of press releases, so make sure yours stands out in some way and is easy to use. If in doubt about the format, contact the editor first, and ask what they want.


13. Writing advertisements

These fall into two main categories – selling ads and recruitment ads. If you are selling...

  • Give your advertisement a powerful headline
  • Make it simple but visually appealing
  • Be precise
  • Include a call to action.

If you are writing a recruitment ad

  • Be specific about pay, the job, location and other details
  • Consider the job title
  • Choose your words with care
  • Get someone else to check it.


14. Writing a curriculum vitae (CV)

  • Use a format that suits you and the information you want to include
  • Keep to one or two pages
  • This is an acceptable time to boast
  • Have someone proof read it for you


15. Proofreading

You should always examine your text (or somebody else’s) carefully to find and correct typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling.

All your organisation’s written material should communicate a clear message and the company’s brand values to your customers or clients. Proofread copy (text) will improve readers’ understanding and ensure you’re conveying your intended message. Inaccurate, poorly drafted copy will give readers the impression that the organisation that created it is sloppy.


16. How to proofread

  • Scan the document first
  • Read the document backwards
  • Electronic proofreading
  • Editing PDF documents
  • Questions and tips