How to Improve Your Work Related Writing

Two Methods:Planning What You WriteWriting for Work

Effective communication is key to running a business. Effective business writing in the form of letters, brochures, press releases, newsletters, blog entries and business reports helps your customers understand the nature of your business and encourages them to buy what you sell. Effective work-related writing, in the form of policies, procedures and memos, lets your employees know what your company goals are and what you expect of them to meet those goals. The following steps on how to improve your work-related writing deal with how to plan your business writing and how to develop an appropriate style.

Method 1
Planning What You Write

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    Plan what you want to say. Usually, unless an immediate reply to an e-mail is required, you have time to think about what you're writing and how best to say it. Take that time to determine what you have to say and the right order to say it in.
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    Understand the scope and structure of what you're writing. If you're replying to a written request, you can glean the requirements of what to write from the questions in that request; if not, you can ask the requester to clarify what he or she is asking for before you reply. For longer pieces, such as a policy manual or business report, you can look at examples of prior documents to figure out what should and shouldn't be included and how to phrase it.
    • If your department has a style guide for the types of work-related writing it does, consult it as frequently as necessary during the planning and writing process.
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    Know your audience. Writing for corporate executives is different from writing for customers, and both are different from writing for your immediate boss or your co-workers. While you need to establish a professional tone at all times, each audience is looking for different information and each audience brings a different range of knowledge and expectations to what they're reading.
    • Try to steer a middle course between being overly stiff and too casual in how you write. You can be more casual with customers and co-workers if the content of your message permits it, but you should be more formal when writing for corporate executives and shareholders.

Method 2
Writing for Work

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    Be straightforward. The goal in writing for a business audience, inside or outside the company, is to clearly communicate your message. While you need to adopt a business-like tone, your style should not get in the way of your actual message.
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    Be succinct. While trying to figure out what you want to say, you may put down more words than you need to in getting to your point. Too many of these words may frustrate your reader, leading him or her to skim over your message or to simply ignore it. While you're trying to get a handle on what you want to tell your readers, go ahead and put the words down as they occur to you, then go back and edit out what you don't need. Here are a few things to look for when editing:
    • Cliches. Overused phrases get ignored after a while, leading to coining new phrases that, in turn, get overused themselves. Avoid cliches like the plague; choose clear, precise descriptions over trying to be clever.
    • Overusing qualifiers. There's nothing wrong with using words like "many," "most," "generally" or "very" when called for, but using them too often weakens the impact of your writing. Some words don't need qualifiers; outside of marketing copy, there's no call for "very unique," and even marketers can do without saying it.
    • Stock phrases. As with qualifiers, phrases such as "the fact that," "the reason for," "in light of" and "on the grounds that" weaken your work-related writing when you use them too often. You can replace many stock phrases with simpler words, such as saying "can" in place of "has the ability to" and use the longer phrase only when you want to call attention to a sentence.
    • Redundant words. Sometimes 2 words that mean roughly the same thing, such as "hopes and dreams" are paired to give the meaning greater impact. This works when used sparingly; however, most of the time you should keep the word that fits the meaning of your sentence better and take out the other.
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    Use the active voice. Active voice, in which the subject of the sentence comes before a strong action verb and is followed by the object, is more powerful than passive voice, where the subject comes last and is preceded by a form of "to be" ("am," "are," "is," "was," "were"). Compare "Stocks rose 42 points after the Packers' Super Bowl victory" (active voice) with "The Packers' Super Bowl victory was responsible for stocks rising 42 points" (passive voice).
    • Some passive voice phrases such as "This is," "That is," "There is" and "It is" are necessary to refer to a previous sentence.
    • It's also possible to overuse forms of "to be" and "to have" without phrasing something in the passive voice. Contrast "The Packers' Super Bowl victory had a positive impact on stock prices" with "Stock prices rose after the Packers won the Super Bowl."
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    Don't turn verbs and adjectives into nouns. Using the noun forms of words commonly used as verbs or adjectives make what you're saying sound more abstract and less concrete. This form of writing may be called for in some academic and government settings or when addressing corporate executives, but not when addressing your co-workers in a clear, unambiguous manner.
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    Use words you know the meaning of and use them correctly. Your goal is to communicate clearly, not to impress people with words that may take focus away from what you're trying to communicate. This is particularly important when reporting to company shareholders or giving instructions to company employees.


  • If possible, read what you've written aloud before sending it off. You can often spot errors more easily when you hear them instead of when you see them.
  • Initially, you may have to go over what you've written several times, looking for places that violate each of the steps given under "Writing for Work." As you become better at writing for work, you'll need to go over your work less often.


  • If your department or company style guide disagrees with any of the statements in this article, go with what's in your style guide. It was written to meet the particular needs of your company, while this article was written to give general advice.

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Categories: Better Writing