Everything You Need To Know About Business Writing

Everything You Need To Know About Business Writing

If you work in a business and you write to colleagues and clients, you are a business writer. In this post, we tell you everything you need to know about business writing.

Business writing describes any written words that enter (or exit) a business. 

All writers should know the ins-and-outs of business writing, even if they do not consider themselves traditional business or corporate writers. Many writers are using “business writing” already – every single time they contact a client or pitch their writing. 

When managing your writing as a business, you’re going to need business writing. When writing about business, or within a business, or to a business, it is business writing that you’re going to use. 

If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

Everything You Need To Know About Writing For Business

Here’s a clear and comprehensive guide that covers everything a writer should know about business writing and more. 

What Is Business Writing? 

Business writing uses a formal voice and a rigid structure. It’s official. It’s short and to-the-point. It travels through business publications, official emails, website content, and other written words that are meant to be read by people who own, run, or manage businesses. 

The definition of “business writing” is vast, but you’ll know it when you see it.

It exists to convey things from one end to the other when it comes to doing business, but it also exists to create an official and written record of the things that happen during the running of the business or enterprise.

(Some) Types Of Business Writing 

This can include (although it isn’t limited to):

  1. Advertisements
  2. Agendas
  3. Blog posts
  4. Business plans
  5. Business letters
  6. Business stories
  7. Case studies
  8. Company profiles
  9. Contracts
  10. Cover letters
  11. CVs
  12. Emails
  13. Memos
  14. Minutes
  15. Notices
  16. Press releases
  17. Reports
  18. Social media posts
  19. Website content

Why Learn It?

Writing that gets sold, pitched, or paid for means that you have become more than a writer. Now, you’re a business owner – and business is everything you write from now on.

Even if you write purely short fiction or journalism, you’ll still need to sell this piece of writing. That’s business writing, and that’s why it can be beneficial for all writers to familiarise themselves with it.

It can also include contracts and other forms of legal corporate writing.

Who Reads Business Writing?

This writing is either: 

  1. for businesses;
  2. or about businesses. 

It conveys statistics, relays facts, gets points across, informs the “corporate ladder,” or connects with clients and other businesses. 

Usually, it is meant for readers who don’t have a lot of time, but who might have to absorb a lot of crucial information. 

It should never contain mistakes. It should shy away from colloquial or informal language, always avoid fancy fonts, and say what has to be said. 

If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

A Brief Guide On How To Write For Business

Whether you’re working on a press release, a blog post, or a company notice, the general tone is the same (and the writer has to keep many of the same things in mind). Here’s a quick guide to some of the things a business writer should always remember when readying their fingertips to write. 

1. UK, US, SA, or AUS

Set your word processor to a standard language, and make sure it’s set this way throughout the entire document. (Select All > Tools > Language) You can choose UK English or US English. Just be consistent in the choice. Your company may have a style guide that calls for a certain setting. Check that before you start writing.

2. Spell Check (And Check, And Check)

Spelling and grammar mistakes can come across as careless or unprofessional. Check spelling and grammar thoroughly, and then double-check any proper nouns (like the names of people and businesses). Read: A Must-Have Checklist To Improve Your Writing

3. A Formal Address

Business writing is best written in a formal tone. You should use a formal address at the start if you’re speaking to any direct addressees like for an email. “Dear” is better than “Hey there”. Read: 25 Email Etiquette Tips

4. Business Buzzwords & Jargon

Businesses use specific buzzwords, and sometimes even more specific terms related to the type of business. We use words like “dividends”, words like “disruption”, words like “synergy”- and words like “after market” or “anti-lock brakes” if the industry is, for example, cars. Only use these if you are writing for insiders in that market. Otherwise, stick to plain language.

5. General Corporate Language

Direct and formal tones are best for business. (There are very few exceptions to this.) Use official, formal language. It should be what you would use when speaking to people in authoritative positions as opposed to the type of language you would use to speak to friends or family members.

6. Keep Things Short

Writing length depends on what you’re writing. Letters are shorter than press releases, for example. But in general, corporate writing should always be concise and to the point. Use The Elevator Pitch and The Inverted Pyramid to help you do this. Always ask, “Can I say this in fewer words?” Business readers don’t have a lot of time to waste. Tip: Avoid redundancies and shorten your sentences.

7. Assumed NDA

When writing internal documents or correspondence for business, always assume that you’re doing so under a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which can often be implied. Professionals don’t speak out of the boardroom.

8. Keep Resources

Save all business-related resources (such as interviews and raw resource files) with the writing piece. Sometimes, you might have to refer back to a previous interview or contact person, and you’ll want to know exactly where to find these resources later.

9. Do Drafts

Once you’ve finished a piece of writing, that’s the first draft. It’s likely (read: very likely) that the first draft will turn into a second – and the second will turn into a third. Always edit, polish, and perfect when you think you’re almost done.

10. Learn Formatting

Formatting is also vital. Read these posts for tips:

  1. Formatting Tips For Professional Writers
  2. 10 Formatting Tips To Make Your Online Text More User-Friendly
  3. Why You Need White Space When You Write (And 5 Ways To Create It)

11. Learn Basic Grammar

Our posts on punctuation and parts of speech are ideal for all business writers:

  1. Punctuation For Beginners
  2. All About Parts Of Speech

12. Include A Call To Action

We use a call to action to elicit a response or encourage a sale. Read: How To Write Call To Action Phrases That Convert

13. Use Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing convinces your audience to listen or to act. Great business writers use persuasive writing every day.

  1. 3 Pillars Of Persuasive Writing – Ethos, Logos, Pathos
  2. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template
  3. 7 Tips For Witing A Brilliant Opinion Piece
  4. Persuasive Writing – Emotional vs Intellectual Words
  5. Persuasive Writing Checklist

Big Business Writing Mistakes

Okay, now you know more about this type of writing and how to do it. 

What about how not to do it? 

Here are some of the biggest mistakes in modern business writing.

1. Rushing A Document

You need to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it, before you start writing the document. Read: 9 Things You Need To Do Before You Write A Business Document

2. No Phancy Phonts

Would you trust your bank if they wrote all their emails using only Comic Sans in rainbow colours of alternating size? Don’t employ fancy fonts in business writing. No professional does. (The same goes for borders, colours, and fancy, unnecessary graphics.)

3. No Gossip, Rumours, or Personal Humour

Hey, wouldn’t it be really funny to…? NO. Keep gossip, rumours, and humour away at all times. (Leaving it in generally leads to  embarrassments, lawsuits and disciplinary hearings.)

4. No Foul Language

If you study examples of business-related writing, you’ll notice a complete absence of f-bombs and other four-letter words. Foul language (and a short-tempered tone) is best left out of business-related writing or correspondence.

5. No Unnecessarily Fancy Language

We needs direct facts .Avoid using unnecessarily elaborate language, similes, comparisons, or colourful language that distracts from the point of the piece. Why use 2, 000 words for an e-mail when it can be said in 200? Simplify your writing.

6. (All The) Small Things

One of the worst business writing mistakes is also one of the smallest. It’s all those tiny things that the eye (and some spell-checkers) could miss before you hit send or publish. Often, these are elements like missed commas, misspelled names, and ending letters with “kind retards”. Always look for the small things. [If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.]

7. No Forwarding Faux-Pas

When responding to emails (or sending emails with several recipients), check the To and CC lines to make sure you’re responding to the correct person – and not to everyone copied into the thread. This is one of the most common business writing mistakes, and it is best avoided just by checking. 

8. Using Too Many Nominalisations

Also noun as ‘nouning’, a nominalisation occurs when we change a verb or another part of speech into a noun. When we write clearly, we try to avoid nominalisations, because they clutter our sentences and  make them unclear. Read: Why You Should Avoid Nominalisations When You Write

9. Using Too Much Passive Voice

In a previous post, we explain: ‘At Writers Write, we prefer to read fiction with a passive content of less than 5%, and non-fiction, including business writing, with a passive content of less than 10%. If we overuse the passive voice, our writing becomes less user-friendly and our readability statistics decrease. This defeats our purpose, which is to communicate.’ Read: From Passive Voice To Active Voice – How To Spot It & How To Change It

10. Poor Readability Statistics

If we want to communicate, we have to use a reader-friendly style. Running readability statistics is an excellent way to test if you are writing clearly.

Step-by-Step Guides For Business Writers

Need help with being a better business writer? Writers Write has your entire toolkit right in one place, from why it’s important to put things in writing through to the following guides:

  1. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Format Your E-Mails
  2. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Write a CV
  3. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Write Agendas
  4. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Write Memos
  5. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Write Minutes
  6. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Write Notices
  7. A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Write Business Letters

We also have a posts on:

  1. How To Write An Effective Business Profile
  2. How To Write A Case Study In 3 Easy Steps
  3. The 10-Step Guide To Taking Notes
  4. The Complete Speechwriting Series

Style Guides

Most companies have a style guide for writers to follow. This defines how management wants their employees to write.

  1. What Is A Style Guide And Why Do I Need One?
  2. 4 Ways A Style Guide Will Revolutionise Your Organisation’s Writing
  3. 10 Things You Should Not Exclude From Your Company’s Style Guide
  4. Create a Style Guide for your Company in 10 Steps

If you want to improve your business writing, buy The Complete Grammar Workbook.

 By Alex J. Coyne. Alex is a writer, proofreader, and regular card player. His features about cards, bridge, and card playing have appeared in Great Bridge Links, Gifts for Card Players, Bridge Canada Magazine, and Caribbean Compass. Get in touch at alexcoyneofficial.com.

If you enjoyed this, read his other posts:

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  5. Invaluable Safety Tips For Journalists
  6. 12 Newspaper Archive Resources For Journalists & Writers
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