Back when you were in high school or college, I’ll bet you didn’t devote much time to your English classes. Most of us didn’t. We sure should have. Good business writing skills are one of the best ways to stand out from your competitors. There are some easy ways you can improve your writing.
One of the best things you can do to improve your business writing is to read more frequently. Many people don’t enjoy reading for pleasure. If this is the case, at least spend some time reading business books or magazines. Pay attention to sentence structure, punctuation, grammar and style to improve your own writing. While you are improving your writing, you are getting increased business knowledge as well.
We’ve all become reliant on spell check to catch our writing errors. Spelling and grammar check are great tools but they are not foolproof. After you’ve used spell/grammar check, do a final proofread or ask your best proofreader to do it for you.
Editing and revising are required steps in the writing process. Many professional writers consider these the most important steps of writing. If you are working on an important document or letter and want it to be polished, powerful and persuasive, plan on revising it several times. This also improves your writing skills.
You are not alone in commonly misusing certain words. In fact, there are many web sites that will give you a list of these misused words like effect vs. affect, loose vs. lose and it’s vs. its. Bookmark one or a few of these and make sure you aren’t making these common mistakes that spell check will not pick up.
Keep a good style/grammar guide book on hand. Review it often and make note of the situations where your most common errors occur. Until you become aware of them, you’ll keep making them. If you do a lot of business writing, there are nice laminated cheat sheets you can buy and use for quick reference.
Ernest Hemingway pointed out that good writers use short sentences. Be brief! Don’t tell people what you are going to tell them (i.e. “in this article, we’ll discuss…”). Just tell them. Avoid fluff or fillers like “however” and “of course”. Edit and see how brief you can be while still communicating your point clearly.
Different parts of the country make different mistakes with the English language. The Midwest struggles with “I seen that” versus the correct “I saw that” while the northern regions tend towards “Can I go with” versus the correct “Can I go with you?”. Be aware of these common mistakes so that you can prevent making them while speaking and writing.
Writing communicates much more than the message you are intending to convey. Many people hate to write because they don’t trust in their own abilities. Writing is a skill that deserves practice. If it is sloppy and weak, that is the impression people will have about you and your business. Take some time to improve this basic, but crucial, skill.
by Steven Schlagel – October 4, 2009