Posted by: wordsmithsuk | October 1, 2010

Five secrets of good business writing

Here are five secrets of good writing that will help to communicate your message and create a favourable image for your organisation.

1. Create a strong beginning

The most important part of any business document is the beginning. If this is well written, the chances are that your reader will read it straight away – which is what you want. But if the beginning is dull or hard to get through, the reader may decide to read it later. And then there is a good chance that he or she will never get around to reading it at all.

2. Use clear, crisp, lively verbs

A verb shows doing, having or being. It does valuable work in language because it is the motor that drives our ideas. English is rich in verbs – and good writers use them to give their documents energy and momentum. Learn to choose appropriate action verbs to express what you want to say.

Effective, dynamic verbs are all around you. Examples are: answer, persuade encourage, identify, emerge, help, provide, learn, grant, develop, convey, record, perform, confirm, explain, invite, recommend and summarise.

3. Use paragraphs and headings

Paragraphs are an important part of structure. They contribute to the readability of any piece of writing in a number of ways:

  • They break a large piece of text down into manageable proportions
  • They group together a number of sentences that relate to the same topic
  • They make the page less cluttered because they introduce some white space
  • They give the reader a break
  • A new paragraph makes it clear that you are moving on from the last topic.

Start each paragraph with a topic sentence. All the material in the paragraph should support that topic – answering the questions why? what? how/ etc. If the paragraph contains material that doesn’t support the topic, remove it or start a new paragraph.

In a long document, it is a good idea to group several paragraphs together under headings. This helps readers to find their way through the text and makes it easier for them to refer to particular sections.

4. Make your writing flow

Start new sentences and paragraphs with a link to previous text by showing the connection between the old and the new thought. These links move the text along briskly and keep the reader engaged. You can repeat words from the end of the prior sentence, or point back to the prior thought by restating (this; that; these; those), or starting the sentence with a signal word or phrase like: first, for example, in addition, by contrast, moreover, as a result, by comparison, alternatively.

5. Talk to your reader

Readers will be more interested in what you have to say if you talk directly to them. It is possible to call your readers ‘you’ without being over familiar – and the resulting tone will be warm and sincere, rather than rather cold and impersonal.

Don’t say ‘Once this decision is made’; try instead ‘Once you have made this decision’. Similarly, ‘The point that must be borne in mind is this …’, is better expressed as ‘You must remember that …’.

Saying ‘you’ makes readers feel that you are thinking of them as human beings. At the same time, it is a good idea to show that both you and the company are human too. You can do this by using the personal pronouns ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘we’ and ‘us’ where they are appropriate.

Write, for example

  • ‘I received your letter’ instead of ‘Your letter was received’
  • ‘We shall make a decision next week’ instead of ‘A decision will be made next week’.

This is an edited extract from my new audio book Effective Business Writing for Success which sets out a step-by-step process for writing clearly and concisely and making a positive impact on your readers. This audio package includes a number of components including model documents and exercises that will help you to get your message across.

You can email me on if you have any questions about any aspect of business writing. It would be good to hear from you.

Good luck and … enjoy your writing!


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