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How to Keep Your Business Writing Clear and Professional

Clear business writing requires good grammar, spelling, and vocabulary and ruthless self-editing. You also need to make your business writing courteous, getting your point clearly across with civility. These tips can help you give a good impression with your business writing:

  • Read. You acquire a good vocabulary in only one way: by reading. To paraphrase, “You are what you read.” The intention is to be as clear as you can be and to avoid all avoidable ambiguity. Writing requires an attention to detail that you don't need in conversation.

  • Edit. Editing is perhaps the most difficult thing to do with your own writing. After all, you wrote it, so you don’t want to change it. But you should; even trained writers can always find changes to make.

  • Be graceful. Business writing, like all professional writing, is bound by the code that performance — not the person — is the subject of criticism. Focus on the topic at hand, rather than on the person who is talking about it, even if the person is a rude so-and-so. Here are the mistakes to avoid:

    • Never swear in business correspondence.

    • Never call people names in business correspondence.

    • Never make off-color remarks in business correspondence.

  • Avoid spelling errors. Believe it or not, spelling errors can doom business relations. Clients and business associates notice when your letters aren’t proofread.

    Many spelling errors are easily remedied by running your document through your computer’s spell-check program. But beware — spell-checkers don’t catch all the errors that can creep into a document. A trained eye is still better than a spell-check program.

  • Remove grammatical errors. Grammar is a necessary skill for composing effective business letters, e-mails, and memoranda. Repeatedly making grammatical errors instantly brands you as being poorly educated and careless. Bad grammar leaves a bad impression. Here are some of the most common grammatical errors:

    • Subject/verb agreement: If the subject of the sentence is singular, so is the verb; if the subject is plural, so is the verb. This rule applies even if other words intervene between the subject and the verb.

    • Sentence fragments: A sentence is a complete thought that must have a subject and a predicate phrase, including a verb. Sentences that lack subjects or predicates are sentence fragments.

    • Run-on sentences: Run-on sentences include too much for a single sentence. Breaking one long sentence into several shorter sentences is a quick and easy fix.

    • Dangling modifiers: Modifiers are sentence clauses that modify or affect the subject of the sentence. Modifiers dangle when what they modify is unclear, as in this sentence: "After being accidentally dropped, John had to replace the microwave."

    • Punctuation errors: Punctuation errors are among the most common writing errors. They make your correspondence look unprofessional.

    • Excess verbiage: Bad writers use more words than are needed. Good writers don’t; they know what words will convey their message efficiently. You improve your writing immediately by eliminating unnecessary verbiage.

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