Business Writing Basics

Dilbert cartoon edited

Good business writing is written with clarity and simplicity. Information is organised for the message and context and the medium is appropriate for the message. It is audience focused with a pleasant friendly tone that builds goodwill.

Communicate to problem solve

Business communication needs to be thought of as a problem solving activity in which the following questions are addressed:What is the situation?

  • What are some possible communication strategies?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What is the best way to design the chosen message?
  • What is the best way to deliver the chosen message?

The three main purposes of business writing are to inform, to request or persuade and to build goodwill. You want your business writing to engage and excite your audience and to get others to adopt your point of view.  An engaged and informed audience is more likely to support your organisation and do business with you, and you are more likely to get a return on your investment.

With all this in mind, it is important to plan your writing. Think about your message. What is its purpose? Is it to persuade, give bad news, give good news, or is it just to inform? Who is your audience and what do you know about them, what is the demographic of your audience, what knowledge do they have of your topic? What is the context of the message, What medium will you use to deliver the message?

You may have heard of the PAIBOC acronym. This is a useful tool to help you with your message planning.

    Purposes – What are your purposes for writing or speaking
    Audience – Who is your audience and what do you know about them?
    Information – Ask yourself, what is the one thing I need my audience to know, to believe, to do?
    Benefits – What are the reader benefits you can use to support your position.
    Objections – What  possible objections can I expect my readers to have?
    Context – How will the context affect the reader’s response?

Write in the positive

Remember to write in the positive for both internal and external communication.Tell your audience what they can do or have, not what they can’t. Tell them how the benefits will improve their lifestyle, not prevent or stop something else happening. Human nature dictates that we don’t like being told what we can’t do.

  1. Good messages need to be clear. In other words, your reader gets the meaning you, the writer, intended. They don’t have to guess.
  2. Your message should be complete so your reader’s questions are answered and they have enough information to act on.
  3. Your message should be correct. It should be factual and have the correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
  4. The style, organisation and visual impact of your message will help the reader to read, understand and act on information as quickly as possible.
  5. Your message must build goodwill, presenting a good image of you, the writer, and the organisation.
  6. Your information is organised to suit both the message and the medium.

Spending time planning and reviewing your writing may well save you and your organisation time and money in the long run. The chances are, that well planned communications will build stronger relationships and ongoing loyalty with your employees and clients.

Sue Avison is the Director of ‘Say It Once’- Business Writing for Success.  Sue specialises in writing web content, newsletters, articles and business documentation.

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