Strong business writing skills are essential for anyone who wants to advance her career. Your writing reflects on you and communicates for you. It is critical to constantly improve business writing skills as part of your efforts to develop and refine your leadership.
Most business writing has a specific purpose. Perhaps you have a recommendation to make, or you are advocating for a policy change. Whatever the purpose, the first step to good business writing is simply to identify that purpose.
The next step is to select an appropriate format. Is your purpose best served by using a memo? A letter? A sales report? With a format identified, you can move on to the writing structure. Structure is an outline of how to present information to achieve the purpose.
Example: The business memo
The business memo is a common format for business writing. It is excellent for presenting information in a way that helps achieve your purpose. The key to improving your memo writing skills is to establish and use an effective memo structure.
Introduction This is the opening paragraph where you summarize your purpose and set the stage for the rest of the document.
Information/Situation This section describes the current state of the issue. It might be a description of the business situation, or information about current performance. The goal is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of the current state of affairs.
Conclusions/Analysis This section details your conclusions about the situation or issue, based on your analysis of the information presented.
Recommendations/Findings This section is the heart of your purpose, which is to present your recommendations or findings regarding the situation or issue. Describe what you think should be done, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.
Support/Reasoning This section gives the reader reasons to agree with your recommendations. Each reason should be supported by facts, analysis, research, or other appropriate information.
Action This section tells the reader exactly what needs to happen next. Include specific statements about what should be done, when it should be completed, and who should do it.
This example structure is very generic, but effective. You can adapt and adjust it as needed to suit your personal style, but whatever structure you end up with should be used every time you write a memo. This will bring consistency and clarity to your business writing.
The writing process
Once you have your document structure established, focus on the process you use to write. The steps you take to produce a business document are important to ensure that your material is crisp, clear, and professional.
Here is an example of a writing process recommended by business professionals:
Write the first draft Dont worry about perfect sentence structure. Let your thoughts flow and get your ideas on the paper.
Edit for clarity Edit your work to make it clear and concise. Eliminate wordy passages and edit out anything that does not add to the message.
Put it down Put the piece away for a while, ideally for 24 hours or so. If time is short even 15 or 20 minutes is okay. When you come back to it, you will have a fresh perspective and greater clarity on how to improve the document.
Business writing is a critical skill for every professional person. It is a skill that does not just happen by itself; rather, it takes effort, practice, and constant refinement to improve. The effort is well worth it, though, as you focus on improving business writing skills as part of your leadership development, you will produce more effective business results.