Writing is an important component of doing business. Whether you’re preparing financial reports for your partners, sales proposals for your customers, or just communicating using slack and email, pretty much every job requires writing.
The thing with writing is, you can’t take it back. Whatever you write is there forever, whether in report, email, or Slack message form.
Here are five common mistakes made in business writing. Avoid these to make sure you’re communicating effectively.
#1. Not getting to the point directly
If you have to say something, say it as clearly and quickly as possible. Your target audience may be business owners, executives, professionals, employees, and customers. They’re all busy people and can’t waste their time looking for what you want to convey. If your main point is sitting at the bottom of a four-paragraph email, you’ve just lost one reader (and potentially a client).
Introductions are great openers to set the right tone, but keep them short and friendly. Be consistent with your message throughout the rest of your writing. You’ll earn the interest of your readers if your communication is simple, clear and direct.
#2. Grammar errors, typos, punctuation mistakes
The wrong choice of words, incorrectly spelled words and typos can result in misunderstandings. Just a missing digit in the number of items ordered can end up in returned or canceled shipments. Vague phrases or sentences may result in botched contracts or even lawsuits.
Texting has given all of us a more relaxed attitude towards grammar. In our eagerness to respond quickly, we sometimes forget to capitalize letters, check our spelling, and pay attention to punctuation and typos.
Emoticons, emojis and other symbols are great to use when you’re informally texting your friend or family to express your emotions. Don’t ever use them in your business writings. (Gifs in private slack channels are, of course, acceptable.)
#3. Using jargon
Sure, you should impress your readers, but not with jargon that makes you sound like a show-off. It’s better to communicate with clear, everyday language that everybody understands.
Jargon shows itself in business-speak, management speak, buzzwords, cliches, or language too technical for others to understand. These words may sound smart and trendy on the surface, but they are often vague.
To be more clear, you may want to say:
- “Come up with original ideas” instead of “think outside the box”
- “Cooperate” instead of “synergize”
- “Hardworking” instead of “results-oriented”
- “Significant change” instead of “paradigm shift”
- “Use” instead of “utilize”
- “Person with exceptional skills” instead of “rock star”
- “Now” instead of “at this point in time”
- “First” instead of “first and foremost”
- “Finally” or “lastly” instead of “last but not least”
There are some exceptions when jargon can be effective in business writing. If you want to use jargon, make sure your audience will understand and be on board with it.
For instance, if you’re writing to or for a specific professional group, you’re expected to speak their language. Doctors, lawyers, academicians, architects, astronauts and so on each have their own jargon.
If you’re writing for a general audience, you may use a few jargon words related to your topic if simpler substitutes don’t exist. Make sure you explain that technical term to get your message across clearly.
#4. Too much text
Often, too much text turns off readers. Long words, complex phrases and sentences, and too many blocks of paragraphs add to the confusion. Business owners, employees, colleagues, and customers don’t have time to pour over big chunks of text.
Adding white space to your writing makes it more readable and more relaxing to the eye. Break up long sentences and paragraphs to ease complexity. Appropriate use of bold text, bullets, numbered lists, and visuals can also catch the interest of your readers. Just don’t overuse them.
#5. Unorganized ideas
Loading too many ideas into one long paragraph muddles content and confuses your audience. Good business writing starts with good planning on both substance and form.
Consider making an outline of the things you want to include. Discuss one idea in one paragraph at a time and organize your ideas in their order of importance. Next, format your writing in a logical order from the title to the conclusion so it’s all clean and neat when your readers scan it.
Effective business writing establishes credibility and authority. You want to make sure you come across as a professional to earn the trust of your colleagues, clients, suppliers, and customers. Depending on what type of writing you need, you might find that you’re too busy to handle it all on your own. If you’d rather have someone else do the writing for you, contact us today!