Effective Business Writing: 5 Tips

Note: This post on effective business writing was originally published on July 19, 2012. Some text and images have been updated.

Your marketing materials contain a crucial message. If that message doesn’t get through clearly, it can hurt your brand. (Not to mention your sales.)

But effective business writing connects with readers. It makes your product or service appealing and increases your company’s credibility. And then? Well, you may just see the bottom line improve.

Follow these tips for to improve your marketing materials. Company one-sheets, web copy, trifold brochures, white papers—they can all benefit from good writing.

“Things to do: 1. Pay the footman, 2. Court the baroness,
3. Practice effective business writing.”

Tip #1: Focus on the needs of your audience.

Effective business writing is text that the reader understands and finds helpful. If you’re writing for a general audience, use plain language. If you’re writing for a niche audience, then it may be fine (and even good) to use industry-specific terminology.

Your content needs to convey information, provide advice, and/or persuade the reader to act. (And you can usually persuade more easily if you share information or advice.) When you focus on your audience, your readers get real value from your writing. Read more about focusing on your audience.

Tip #2: Use the right word for the context.

The perfect word for the context is correct in both its meaning and its register. People can easily misinterpret words that they read, because writers do not always think on a granular level—that is, about individual word choice.

When you write your marketing materials, use the following rule of thumb: “We can use the word X in context because people in context would naturally say X.”

Register is the degree of formality in your writing. Use everyday words for a casual tone and “fancier” words for a more professional tone. Read more about using the right words.

Tip #3: Use the active voice.

Effective business writing is in the active voice. (James attended the meeting is active. The meeting was attended by James is in the passive voice.)

The active voice makes for easier reading. It has more “punch” and clarity than the passive voice. Active voice conveys transparency, telling your readers who did what. This transparency helps establish credibility and trust. Read more about the active voice.

Tip #4: Generally speaking, be specific.

Say what you mean. Avoid vague wording and empty jargon. Name the operation, describe the process, or explain the concept in detail.

For example, consider At XYZ Corp., we go above and beyond to […]. It’s vague. Now consider At XYZ Corp., we offer 24/7 telephone support to […]. Which one conveys more information? Read more about using specific language.

Tip #5: Be brief.

Effective business writing is concise. Your audience is busy, so keep it short. When writing for the web, keep it even shorter.

A little explanation is in order here, however. If you’re trying to found online, you won’t get any traffic with 200-word blog posts. In fact, Backlinko has found that longer posts outperform shorter posts.

So if your company’s latest blog post has 2,500 words, that’s okay. But each of those 2,500 words should be necessary. In other words, don’t pad your posts with empty words just to beef up the word count.

So what we’re talking about here is concision: saying what you need to say in an efficient way. In fact, a skilled editor can often cut 25% to 50% of wordy copy without any loss in meaning. Readers appreciate it when you’re concise. Read more about concision.

Bonus Tip for Effective Business Writing

Break a long block of text into several shorter segments. Readers are able to digest content more easily if it appears in visually distinct pieces.

So even if you can’t cut any copy, reorganize it to make it more appealing to readers.

If you like this post, share it! Want more good stuff? Then check out our examples of good writing.


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