Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

How To Keep Your Business Writing Clear And Simple

The typical executive today spends approximately 20-25 percent of their time writing. Yet, writing is one of the last skills that people seem to want to work on. With the amount of email that you probably send out each day, it is vital that you know how to write intelligently.

Here are a few key points to consider when writing for business:

1. Use short, concise sentences. Definitely avoid circumlocution, which is the use of more words than necessary to express an idea. Business writing has a definitive purpose, and that purpose is not to write a creative prose, but to relay a clear message, information or instructions.

2. Be clear. There is little more annoying than having to keep re-reading an email searching for meaning. Too often business people use big words, hoping to sound like an intelligent expert. Instead, they sound like they are trying too hard. Use short, precise words to get your message across.

3. Re-read, proofread, edit your own work. No matter what you call it, this is vital for successful business writing. Misunderstandings can easily be prevented if you take time to go over what you have typed.

4. Cut the jargon. In writing, you can never tell what terminology your reader knows. The jargon your department uses might not make sense to your reader. And if that is the case, then you won’t make sense. Not exactly the impression that you want to make!

5. Avoid filler words. Use the words you need and leave it at that. It especially seems that people are nervous about ending a message, so they feel the need to fill that space with useless words. Don’t. Instead, develop a quick sign off that you will feel confident using. Which brings me to my last point;

6. Calm down and smarten up. Too often, today’s text language pops up in business writing. Do not use inappropriate exclamation marks, smiley faces, slang, unofficial abbreviations, intentionally misspelled words or cutesy sign offs. These have no place in business writing and can do real damage to your image as a professional.

Remember: If you want to be a better business writer – be simple, clear and precise!

To help you, I’ve put together a checklist of reasons why your writing style may not be working as effectively as it should.

This checklist also contains my top 10 strategies for improving the business writing style throughout your organisation.

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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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