As freelance writers, being fluent in diverse writing styles is important to tackle the various tasks commissioned by clients.
From SEO copywriting to writing short captions for Instagram, writers need different tones and techniques to create compelling copy. When writing for businesses in a professional setting, you need to master the key elements of effective business writing.
From understanding business audiences to choosing the right tone and formality, we’ve got you covered on everything you need to know to make your writing clear, concise, and persuasive.
What is business writing?
Business writing refers to the style of writing used in professional and corporate settings to communicate information and ideas effectively.
This can include internal documents shared with employees of a company, external reports for shareholders, or when creating marketing materials.
A wide range of written materials falls under this category, such as memos, reports, press releases, proposals, handbooks, and even outgoing emails.
Business writing aims to convey information in a clear, concise, and well-organized manner with the appropriate language and formatting.
It should focus on the audience and convince them to achieve the desired outcome, whether to persuade, inform, or instruct.
In a way, business writing is also about helping businesses tell their story in a compelling manner, and mastering this skill can pay off for freelance writers.
6 best practices for effective business writing
1. Know your target audience
The main goal of any business writing is to convince. Understanding your target audience and writing to them can make a huge difference.
We speak differently depending on who we are talking to. Knowing your customer persona and having them in mind will align your business writing with their interest and terminology.
It will help you write in a way that will resonate with them. For example, ads with a socially conscious message that appeals emotionally tend to work better with women.
While part of your target audience’s identity revolves around social and cultural backgrounds like age, gender, and income level, it is also important not to overly rely on stereotypes. Conduct surveys and make sure your copywriting basics are informed by proper market research.
Another big part of business writing is understanding your audience’s knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter. This will determine the appropriate reading level to write at and if you should include technical jargon.
2. Leverage structure and formatting for clarity
When communicating organizational information in writing, clarity is another critical factor to consider.
Unclear writing or interpretation differences can cast doubts or confusion that can significantly impact a person’s decision-making. That’s why business writing needs to be clear, accurate, and easily understood by everyone.
Always follow the proper format for each document type, and leverage simple basic structure to help convey and deliver information better. For example, follow the order of introduction, discussion, conclusion, and recommendations when writing business reports.
Additionally, use headings and subheadings to help organize your writing and make it easier for reading and comprehension. Bullet points can also help break up long blocks of text and make it easier to scan documents.
3. Use active voice when possible
While business writing primarily consists of formal statements, the one writing rule we all learned at school still applies. Don’t use passive when you can use active voice.
When it comes to active vs. passive writing, active voice is shorter and more direct, which aligns with the goals of effective business writing.
Active voice also emphasizes action, making marketing material more effective as it prompts readers to take action immediately.
Comparatively, passive writing is wordier and removes the subject who is acting. However, this can also be useful in cases of professional communication when you want to be impartial.
Passive voice can be used in more sensitive cases to remove blame and appear more tactful, like: “The check was mailed late.” instead of “John mailed the check late.”
4. Clear and concise writing
Whether it is internal or external communication, one common goal for business writing is to get everyone on the same page.
Writing concisely can articulate ideas clearly. This means business writers must avoid padding sentences with flowery words or unnecessary fluff to sound professional.
Instead, strive for clarity and transform complex information into something easy to understand for readers. Avoid bloated writing that is up for interpretation.
Everyone may have a different takeaway and interpretation of what was said. Provide necessary background or context when discussing projects.
This can be done by identifying an objective for the writing. Lead with what matters and use words sparingly.
Keep sentences short and to the point, and avoid jargon and “fancy” words. Choose your words deliberately, and always cut words that don’t mean anything.
5. Write with a clear call to action in mind
Strong business writing is result-oriented. While writing well is good, you must appeal to your audience to support your business objectives.
Say you have created an ad that resonates with your audience demographic with lingo and values they support; the ad won’t truly work unless you promote the business.
Business writing is only effective when you write with a clear call to action for lead generation or selling products.
Business writing needs to write and construct content with a purpose that will directly or indirectly lead to the business’s goal.
6. Proofread for perfection and legality
Naturally, good writing should be free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. When it comes to business writing, you should always strive for perfection.
Don’t only rely on spell checkers. Proofread your work to ensure the information you cited is accurate and that you did not do any false advertising.
Use your words deliberately, and always check with the business if you have any doubts about your writing or description, as everything you write can affect the business image.
Work on your business writing skills
Business writing is a skill like any other. You must practice it daily through writing or reading well-written material to master it effectively.
More importantly, business writing is about awareness and being attentive to your audience, word choice, and the purpose behind writing your document.
About the author
Adela Belin is a content marketer and blogger at Writers Per Hour. She is passionate about sharing stories with the hope to make a difference in people’s lives and contribute to their personal and professional growth. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.