Lessons in Business Writing, Part 1

Posted: February 1, 2014 in Editing

Quality Business Writing

In business writing, usefulness and readability are key to helping readers. Questions the reader might have must be addressed in the way the message is structured, so think in terms of dialogue rather than a monologue. Your dialogue should be a roadmap that meets implied expectations so skimming and scanning are easy for the eye to follow. To accomplish this strategy, a deductive style should place the bottom-line message first to answer the following questions.

  1. What is this?
  2. Who is it from?
  3. Why should I care?
  4. What should I do with this?

Ultimately your message should leave no unanswered questions. Strive for communication rather than confusion. Here are some tips to create a bottom-line message using Plain English.

  • Break the document into logical easy to grasp components such as headings, paragraphs, bullets, lists, or even font choice.
  • Be aware of your language usage. Vary your sentence length with subordinate and coordinate structures.
  • Eliminate redundancy, vague pronoun reference, excessive prepositional phrases, and nominalization.
  • Use active/passive sentence effectively.
  • Avoid business cliches: valued customer, we regret any inconvenience, we appreciate your patronage, etc.
  • Under no circumstances should negative language be used. This is especially difficult when delivering bad news to a customer or employee.

Bad News Letter

A bad news letter should begin with a buffer statement, which respectfully considers the reader’s feelings and emotions. Define your purpose for writing, but avoid words or apologies that convey unpleasant facts. Get the tone right by accentuating the positive: stress what something is or what a product can do versus any negative qualities.

The buffer statement has positive connotations and is followed by a reason statement to offer background for why the bad news must be delivered.

Logically, the bad news statement follows the reason statement because negative information should be embedded in a secondary position.

Conclude by ensuring that the message that you cannot grant the request is clear.


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