Tips For Effective Business Writing

By following a few tips and tricks you can write effective formal and business letters and documents.

1. Use active sentences

Make it a habit to use active voice in formal and business letters and documents. Active verbs tend to be more powerful than passive ones and are known to produce better results. If the subject of the sentence is the person who performs the action, then the verb is in the active voice. If the subject of the sentence is the person who receives the action, then the verb is in the passive voice. Active verb forms are especially helpful in cover letters and application letters because their purpose is to highlight your achievements.

Passive voice, on the other hand, makes the doer of the action anonymous. Most people would regard it as an indirect way of avoiding responsibility. Passive constructions also tend to be wordier than active constructions. They occupy more space and might make your letters and documents unnecessarily long.

Examples are given below.

The director has postponed the meeting. (Better than 'The meeting has been postponed.')

We appreciate the exceptional service you have provided. (Better than 'The exceptional service you have provided is appreciated by us.')

The managing committee has decided to accept the offer. (Better than 'A decision has been made to accept the offer.')

2. Be Brief

Be brief and to the point. If you use long sentences or paragraphs of text, your message might get buried in them. Lengthy sentences are also hard to understand. Remember that we are now living in the world of emails and instant messaging. Nobody wants to read long, verbose text these days. That, however, doesn't mean that in formal and business letters it is all right to use the kind of language you use when you chat with your friends using an instant messaging system. In business communication, using the right language is essential to create a good impression. And the impression you create on the reader determines your chances of winning your goal.

Limit each paragraph to just one idea. Start each paragraph by stating the main point or purpose of that paragraph. This approach will make it easier for the reader to grasp the main points quickly.

Your letter must fit on one side of an 8 ½" x 11" sheet of paper. Therefore, it is necessary to whittle down your text whenever possible. Don't write a paragraph, if a sentence is enough to express the same idea. In the same way, don't write a sentence, when a phrase would be more than enough. Remember that effective business communication is all about getting your message across in as few words as possible. Especially avoid phrases such as those given below:

Owing to the fact that / due to the fact that (use 'because' instead)

Concerning the matter of (use 'about' instead)

By means of (use 'by' instead)

Regardless of the fact that (use 'although')

In this day and age (use 'today')

3. Avoid jargon

Avoid technical jargon in your writing. By jargon we mean highly specialized terminology. This type of language tends to be exclusive which means that only insiders can fully comprehend their meaning. However, jargon can be considered appropriate if you are writing to people in your profession or industry.

4. Be clear

Use clear and simple words and avoid flowery, pretentious language. Few people possess a vast vocabulary so if your letter is full of high-level words which are seldom used, your reader may have trouble understanding your message. Worse still, they might misunderstand you or think that you are talking above them.

5. Revise the letter

After you have finished writing the letter or the document, reread it to make sure that it makes sense and that no necessary information has been omitted. Your reader should have no difficulty grasping what you are telling them. In other words, you must not give them a reason to write back seeking a clarification or explanation.

Manjusha Nambiar is an ESL tutor and content developer. Her site gives English Grammar lessons and formal letter writing tips. Subscribe to her feed and you will win a free Grammar eBook titled '120 Grammar and Vocabulary Mistakes to Avoid'.

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