5 Ways to Improve when Writing for Business

Posted by martin.parnell |
5 Ways to Improve when Writing for Business

In late July, I was honoured to be asked by Jeri Maitland, Executive Director of the Cochrane Public Library, to be the library’s 2016 / 2017 Writer in Residence. To date my writing credentials include, my first book, the award winning MARATHON QUEST, my soon to be released second book RUNNING TO THE EDGE, both published by Rocky Mountain Books and having articles published in the Huffington Post, IMPACT magazine, Inspire Me Well by Lisa Belanger and numerous local and national newspapers, including the Cochrane Eagle.

During my residency I will be giving a number of workshops on topics such as “How to get Published”, “From Blog to Book” and a special children’s workshop on “How to create a Graphic Comic”. One area that I am particularly interested in is “Writing for Business”. My background is in the mining industry and over the years I have read thousands of reports, emails and memos and unfortunately many of them were poorly written. When I have to read anything connected to business I like it to be clear, as brief as possible and to the point.

I recently read an excellent book entitled “On Writing Well – the Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by William Zinsser and it is for anyone writing anything non- fiction, from a travel guidebook to a report, a formal letter to a handbook and more. As well as giving invaluable advice on how to write, Zinsser also makes it clear as to what one should avoid doing when constructing a piece of writing.

Here are just five of them to consider:

  1. Declutter: Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose. Don’t use a long word when a short word will do, e.g. assist (help) numerous (many) implement (do). And as readers we should not be prisoners of a notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind.
  2. Write for yourself: Don’t be too concerned about who you are writing for. There are so many individuals in your audience.  Relax and say what you want to say. As long as you have mastered the tools of writing you will get your message across.
  3. Portray your uniqueness: According to Zinsser, most executives in North America do not write what appears above their signature. They have surrendered the qualities that make them unique. Do not rely on others to speak for you, in the style in which you wish to be heard. “Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or goodwill you need.”
  4. Edit what you dictate: If you feel the need to dictate something to be typed up by another person, make sure you take the time to edit it.  Zissner explains that this is important if you do not wish to be perceived as “pompous or sloppy”, but a true reflection of who you really are, especially if it is a document which will go to someone who will judge you on your “personality” and “style”.
  5. Know when to stop: it’s not necessary to repeat, in a compressed form what you have already said, so avoid phrases like, “In conclusion’, “What we have learned from this is “, “ To sum up”.  Think of a good, clear, concise sentence or paragraph to end with and have a sense of finality. ‘The perfect ending should take your readers by surprise and yet seem exactly right.”

I am always in the process of writing something, whether it be my next book, my weekly blog, an article for the local newspaper or a piece for my website. I know I still have a lot to learn about the intricacies of a good piece of non- fiction writing, but with the help of William Zissner’s expertise, I know I’m making progress.

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