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Technical Tip: Three Ways to Make Your Writing More Fit for Business

When people write text messages, they use every method available to shorten the sentences – no punctuation, acronyms and symbols, even truncated words. The concept is that nothing matters but getting your point across in as few characters as possible. That is fine for the outside world. The business world, however, is a totally different arena.

When you need to write something in the professional world, you cannot use the same shortcuts used for texting. There are items that are must-haves for business writing. They include:

  • Correct Spelling
  • Complete Sentences
  • Call to Action

Some people think those items do not matter – so long as you are able to have the recipient understand your meaning, who cares how it is written? However, for the recipient who does care about those rules, the items do matter. And that recipient might not look kindly on such errors. The person might decide against giving you the position with his or her company, pass you over for the promotion, or not give you (and your company) the new business. Why chance losing an opportunity, when there are simple tricks that can ensure those items are correct?

Correct Spelling – Almost every piece of software that has an element of writing involved contains some kind of spell check. If that spell check is not as inclusive as you require, there are plenty of options on the web. A simple Google search for “Spell Check” provides a handful of free spell checkers that can be used anywhere at any time.

One common problem occurs when people rely on spell checkers alone, and do not read their final document. They think that so long as the words are spelled correctly, it must be correct. That is how spelling mistakes – the kinds that create other words – sneak into their documents. Like “costumers” instead of “customers” – they are both correct words, but you only mean one of them. Or “defiantly” instead of “definitely” – it is a common mistake, but one that is easily remedied by reading the document before sending it.

Complete Sentences – When you communicate in a personal setting, incomplete sentences (also known as sentence fragments) are fine. The sentence “It needs done.” is understandable when you are face-to-face or texting a friend. You can gesture towards the item, pick up the item and show them what you want them to accomplish, maybe send a helpful emoji, or otherwise make the meaning easily understood.

That does not work in a business setting. You need to write out the entire thought, without any shortcuts. You should define the “It,” use the complete verb, and explain the end result. This means that in a business document, you would not write, “It needs done.” You would write, “The carton needs to be closed, so it can be brought out to the truck.” Yes, it is a longer sentence, but it makes a lot more sense now.

Call to Action – Along with complete sentences, you need to remember the reason you are writing. Is it to give the person information, so they can make a decision? Or is it to have the person perform a task? Whatever the reason, using active words – as opposed to passive words – makes a big difference to the reader.

To continue with the above example, “The carton needs to be closed, so it can be brought out to the truck.” is a passive sentence. While the “you” is not written, it is understood, and fits at the end of the sentence. (“The carton needs to be closed” by you.) The person is not in control; the carton is.

To make the sentence active, rewrite it so the understood “you” fits at the beginning. So the sentence now reads, “Close the carton, and bring it out to the truck.” The “you” is still understood, but now the person is in control (you “close the carton”), not the carton.

It takes longer to write something for a business setting instead of a personal setting. There are many things you can get away with when writing to a friend or acquaintance. However, by paying attention to the details presented here, that extra time will pay off. It will make your business life more polished, and your customers more open to your ideas.

About Bridget Groce

Bridget Groce joined CAI in 2013, and is the Support Lead / Technical Writer for USA Food Safety. She has about 20 years’ experience in technical writing, and has enjoyed writing for many different industries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Technical Communication.

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