Posted by: wordsmithsuk | March 31, 2011

Writing that means business

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

1. Create a strong beginning

The most important part of any 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 there is always the danger that he or she may 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 since 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.

Here are some examples of the many verbs that are available to you in English:

  • Agree
  • Behave
  • Convert
  • Discuss
  • Explain
  • Find
  • Follow
  • Hold
  • Identify
  • Locate
  • Make
  • Operate
  • Prepare
  • Recognise
  • Specify
  • Test

3. Use paragraphs

Paragraphs are an important part of a document’s 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 are related to the same topic
  • They make the page less cluttered because they introduce some white space
  • They give the reader a break
  • They make 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 start the sentence with a signal word or phrase.

For example:

  • First
  • For example
  • In addition
  • But
  • Because
  • By contrast
  • Moreover
  • Given that
  • Similarly
  • In the same way
  • On the other hand
  • Likewise
  • Furthermore
  • In the first place
  • Secondly
  • As a result
  • By comparison
  • Alternatively
  • Therefore.

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 ….’.

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.
Talking to your readers, 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.
What are your tips for making your writing more professional and reader-friendly? Do you have any questions about business writing? I would really like to hear from you!

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