Writing is a skill like any other, and it requires practice and education to develop.
Business owners and employees create countless documents each year. As a professional, even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you probably generate a lot of writing in your day-to-day work. Think of the endless emails, reports, proposals and plans created, making each of us prolific writers, whether we like it or not.
Unfortunately, a lot of what professional workers produce amounts to poorly structured, badly written documents, sometimes littered with typos and misspellings. There’s no excuse for this, and no reason you can’t improve. Writing is a skill like any other, and it requires practice and education to develop. Here, you’ll find the most common mistakes made in business writing and how you can improve your writing by avoiding them.
Getting the name and/or gender wrong. As someone whose last name is often used as a first name, I frequently get called by the wrong name. It’s worse still to misspell someone’s name, no matter how tricky it is. As many human resource professionals can attest, you have a 50 percent chance of getting the gender wrong—if you assume. If you can’t take the time to get a name right, what impression does that make on the reader? If you’re careless with my name, how careless will you be with my business?
Typos and punctuation errors. All business writing requires editing, even a simple email to a colleague. You should always avoid careless mistakes. Spell check, use your word processing program’s grammar check and, whenever possible, have someone proofread your documents.
Writing too casually. With the advent of text messaging, we’ve become accustomed to using shorthand and abbreviations to communicate. However, this should never become a practice in your business writing, not even in email. Pls, thx, ur, and other text-speak are all no-nos when crafting professional documents.
Random capitalization. Names and proper nouns are capitalized in sentences, but adjectives and other random words in the middle of a sentence are not. It doesn’t add emphasis. This can be achieved through occasional italicization.
Using the wrong word. Few mistakes make such a poor impression as using a word incorrectly. For example, irregardless is not a word. Don’t mix up they’re, their and there. If this is a problem you have, print out a list of commonly confused words and put it next to your computer.
Too much or too little information. We’ve all received an email with a vague subject like, “Tuesday.” Use your subject line to clearly explain what your email is about: “Progress Report Due Tuesday,” is much more clear. In emails, as well as in reports and proposals, place the most important information in the first paragraphs and use the remainder of the space to provide additional details as needed. Be succinct.
Passive voice. Using the passive voice is a common business writing mistake. The active voice is simpler and easier to read. In the active voice, a subject performs an action. Instead of saying, “the report was written by management,” use “management wrote the report.”
Taking the time and care to create intelligent, well-written documents will create a lasting impression on colleagues, supervisors, clients and prospective clients. Avoiding common business writing mistakes will help you build your brand, win new business and enhance your professional image. Writing is a critical communication tool and worth taking the time to develop.
Robin Noelle is a professional author, writer and writing coach located in Sonoma County. You can find more information about writing coaches at www.NorthBayWritingCoach.com.
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