Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

How Can You Achieve Results From Your Writing?

The main purpose of any communication is not to sound impressive or to use long words that no-one can understand! The main purpose is to communicate clearly, be understood and be effective – and that means to achieve results from your writing. How can you achieve this?

1. Structure your documents logically

Use fully-blocked style and open punctuation in all your letters, faxes, reports, etc.
Structure all your documents logically using my 4-point plan – make sure there is an introduction setting the scene, a central section stating all the details, and then draw it all together with a response/action section and finally a simple close.

2. Organise your points visually

Use display appropriately to help get your message across. Numbered points and bullets are very helpful, and side headings can be useful when you have to include things like date/time/venue (but please don’t include a long line of colons, which are totally unnecessary and a waste of time!)

3. Keep trim

Long sentences may confuse your reader. They will get to the end of a sentence and then have to go back to the beginning because the can’t remember what you said. Keep sentences short, 7-20/25 words maximum.

4. Give your reader a break

Poor formatting is a common complaint from readers, especially email. There is nothing worse than seeing 10-12 lines of words with no paragraphs. Use new paragraph for each separate issue of the main theme, with each paragraph about 4-5 lines.

5. Eradicate jargon

Avoid acronyms and specialist language unless you are sure it will be understood. KISS means keep it short and simple – that means simple words instead of long ones, and simple phrases instead of long sentences.

6. Use familiar terms

If the reader doesn’t understand the words you use, they will not look them up in a dictionary – they just won’t be impressed and they will stop reading! Ditch the dinosaur language, cut out the commonly-used clichés that were made up by Great-Grandfather. Remember the golden rule of business writing in the 21st Century: WRITE AS YOU SPEAK!

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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