Writing is a baseline skill. It’s an essential part of any professional’s daily tasks, even if they don’t realize it. You may not think it’s necessary to help your team improve their writing skills, but it’s costing you if you don’t.
Just how important are proper grammar and concise sentences? About $3 billion worth, according to one study. Every year, businesses spend billions of dollars on remedial writing training for their employees.
Many people don’t think it’s practical or worthwhile to work on their writing skills. “But knowing how to fashion an interesting and intelligent sentence is essential to communicating effectively, winning business, and setting yourself apart,” according to Harvard Business Review. Let’s cover the basics of business writing and five simple ways you can help your employees become proficient writers.
What Are the Different Types of Business Writing?
Business writing encompasses many forms of written communication. It’s meant to inform, persuade, and explain processes effectively and efficiently. Most business writing falls into four different categories:
This type of writing guides the reader through the process of completing a task, such as a user manual or standard operating procedure. It provides step-by-step instruction and should be straightforward and organized.
Informational writing conveys information about a specific topic, such as white papers or financial statements. You communicate facts and information to your colleagues, customers, and business partners through this form of writing.
The purpose of persuasive writing is to engage and convince the reader to purchase a product or service. Email marketing campaigns and press releases are two examples of persuasive writing.
This is the type of writing you most likely do every day. Emails, recommendation letters, and internal memos are examples of transactional writing.
How Does Poor Writing Affect Businesses?
Whether your staff members write reports for the U.S. government or send customers marketing emails, strong writing skills can make a big difference on your bottom line. For example, inefficient content doesn’t convert sales and can hurt your company’s reputation. Proficient writers are viewed as more trustworthy. So, when someone reads an article or email containing grammatical errors, they’ll often assume the person who wrote it doesn’t know enough about the subject. This breaks their confidence in the writer and the organization. Good writing boosts your credibility and helps your brand stand out.
Another way poor writing negatively affects your business is by wasting time. Readers don’t want to reread emails, articles, and reports, but if the content isn’t clear enough, they’re forced to spend extra minutes trying to make sense of it. This could annoy them, or they may grasp what’s being asked of them. To limit confusion, you need a team of proficient writers.
5 Ways to Improve Your Writing
While not everyone is a natural-born writer, it’s possible to improve your writing skills. We’ve compiled a list of the ways you can help your staff grow into proficient writers without breaking the bank.
1. Consider What You Want to Say
Figure out what you want to convey before putting that pen to paper, whether you’re writing a blog post or an internal email. By thinking about what you want to say and organizing your ideas before you start to write, you’ll be better able to communicate your point. It improves the flow, and your readers will have an easier time following the ideas you’re trying to get across.
Put it into action:
- Think before you write. Diving right into your first draft leads to repetitive and disjointed writing. Instead, create an outline before you begin.
- Start by focusing on one topic or detail and expand from there. If you try to throw too many ideas out at once, your reader won’t know what to focus on.
- Ask yourself what you want the reader to know and record a succinct message to drive your idea home. By identifying your goals, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you want to share.
2. Write Clearly and Concisely
To get your point across, your writing should be clear and concise. If it isn’t, your reader may not understand what you’re trying to say and misinterpret your message.
Put it into action:
- Use the active voice to keep your message simple and direct.
- Make sure you don’t use filler words, such as like or sort of. It muddies your message.
- Avoid using jargon and overly complicated vocabulary, as readers tend to get stuck on those types of words. For example, instead of using the word “aberration,” you can use “quirk.”
- Keep your message fresh. Once you’ve made your point, move on. No one wants to read the same idea twice. This includes messages you may have shared several months prior. Remember to convey new ideas and information whether it’s in a single blog post or series of articles.
- Swap out wordiness for brevity. For example, instead of using the phrase, “a number of,” try finding a less wordy alternative, such as “several.” It’ll improve the clarity of your message.
3. Know Your Audience
Good writing has been scientifically proven to get a reader’s dopamine flowing but only if they like what they’re reading. As they read, they’re subconsciously thinking about how it’s adding value, what they can learn from it, and if it makes sense. Understanding your audience is key to striking the proper tone and sharing the right information.
Put it into action:
- Create a persona who represents your ideal reader. This will help your staff picture who they’re writing for.
- Keep it polite and professional. Even if the content is informal, you should still aim to keep your writing friendly and respectful.
Remember to write customer-centric copy that focuses on your reader’s needs and wants. Otherwise, you’ll lose your audience’s attention.
4. Proofread Your Work
Readers tend to pick up on grammatical errors, even subtle ones. Giving your work a once-over before publishing or sending it would be helpful, but a thorough proofread will help you catch and revise any errors you made in your first and second drafts. Remember that grammatically correct content leads to more success.
Put it into action:
- Create a checklist or internal style guide, so there’s consistency in your message regardless of who’s writing it. This can include rules such as what words to use or not use and if and when to use contractions.
- Give your team ample time to proofread and edit their writing. Tight deadlines lead to incomplete ideas, mistakes, and inaccuracies.
- Consider asking others to review your team’s writing to ensure the point is clear and relevant.
5. Use Tools
If you’re on a tight budget, there are many inexpensive ways to improve your team’s writing skills. In addition to the steps outlined above, there are several tools you’ll want to make use of as you work toward writing proficiency. Some are free while others may cost a little money upfront, but remember that spending now can help you save in the long run.
Put it into action:
- Consider if the changes your word processor suggests would benefit your message. Additionally, make use of its spelling and grammar checks.
- Create subsections and bulleted or numbered lists to organize ideas and provide step-by-step instructions more clearly.
- Use the internet to search for answers to your questions. Sometimes you’ll find solutions to some of your grammar and spelling inquiries. Just make sure it’s from trusted and reliable sources.
- Keep a list of writing courses handy. Some of your staff members may benefit from more formal instruction.
- Hire editing and proofreading services. If your team has a lot on its plate at certain times of the year, there’s no shame in outsourcing work.
By working with your staff to improve their writing skills, they’ll have an easier time communicating with their customers and colleagues. The process may seem overwhelming, but the tips above can help you get started. By writing content that’s honest, clear, and grammatically correct, you’ll find that your staff is more confident and better able to connect with clients and coworkers.
Ready to Scale Your Content?
When you’re ready to take the next step in fine-tuning your staff’s writing skills, Proofed is here to help. Our editors provide quality feedback on every document they work on. So, besides improving flow, concision, and clarity, they offer educational advice in each edit to ensure your employees receive practical advice on how to improve their writing. Schedule a call with us today and discover why we’re trusted by hundreds of organizations, from award-winning start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.