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Supported by the Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce

Tips for best business writing style *

Knowing you are writing well increases your self-confidence
and gives you the edge.

  1. Remember that every communication you write is recorded in someone’s file. It represents not only your company, but who you are. Make sure you’re not letting either down. 

  2. Always put your letters and emails aside for a short time, then re-read them as if you were the recipient. If your instinct tells you any part is not quite right, re-write it.  If you have any doubts about it, your recipient certainly will. 

  3. Avoid Dear Sir/Madam…because you’re telling your recipient you have no idea who they are, or even what gender. Find out the name of the recipient, and if that’s impossible, use their title eg Dear Manager. 

  4. Avoid Yours faithfully…because that belonged stylistically with Dear Sir/Madam and is no longer appropriate. Use Yours sincerely or whatever your in-house style book has decided, such as Regards. 

  5. Avoid clichés such as “If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to ask.” We use clichés to save time and because it’s easier than thinking, so the subtext your client hears is: “I’m too busy to spend time on you.” Instead, write what you would say to them if they were sitting opposite you - something like, "If anything needs clarifying, just call me. I'm happy to help." 

  6. Never use texting or other unconventional abbreviations in your official documents. As with cliches, the subtext your recipient hears is, "I haven't enough time to spend on you."

  7. Keep your language simple #1. Avoid technical terms or work jargon unless your recipient also understands them. If you are writing documents for a mixed (ie technical and non-technical) audience, include a glossary at the end. 

  8. Keep your language simple #2. Using long words when shorter ones say the same thing will irritate rather than impress the reader, because it makes your document harder to understand. 

  9. To Whom It May Concern is used as a heading for references/testimonials, not for letters. 

  10. Make sure your default language is British English, not American. Always spell-check, especially if you know your spelling can sometimes let you down. 

  11. Better still, learn to use correct grammar and punctuation… because it’s the body language of writing. It also makes you a more efficient employee. 

  12. Always check the spelling of your recipient’s name, even if it is a relatively common one. Getting this right is an important part of customer service. 

  13. You can deal with writer’s block: just write. Begin anywhere – say what you want to say without stopping to worry about how you're saying it. Do that afterwards. 

  14. Use mainly short sentences 10-18 words…because you are more likely to avoid errors. 

  15. Use active verbs rather than passive…because your sentences will be shorter, easier to read, and have more impact.
                eg The tower was designed by Jenny McNee. (passive)
                      Jenny McNee designed the tower. (active) 

  16. Make your subject line specific…because it focuses your recipient on your message. There are no prizes for being brief here: you can use up to eight words in a subject line. 

  17. Remove redundant (repetitive) words, eg We need to know the true facts. Facts should be provable: the word true is therefore unnecessary.

  18. Keep your audience in mind #1. Use the “you” voice. Eg You will find enclosed… rather than I have enclosed. 

  19. Keep your audience in mind #2. People are interested in themselves, so connect the purpose of your correspondence with benefits for them. 

  20. Avoid sexist language, eg use fire-fighters rather than firemen. 

  21. When replying to emails or letters, use the recipient’s preferred title…because there may be significant reasons for their preference. 

  22. You can be more informal with business emails than with letters. If you know the recipient, the salutation can be Hi Joy. If you don't, Hello Joy, or Good morning Joy will be fine. Signing off with Cheers or Best wishes or Regards is also appropriate here. 

  23. Give positive messages. Emphasise what you can do, not what you can’t.

  24. Expand your vocabulary #1…because the grammar-check won’t tell you whether to use there or their, its or it’s, and your or you're. 

  25. Expand your vocabulary #2...because the spell-check won't tell you the difference between affect and effect, cite, site and sight, or principle and principal. 

  26. Be careful with humour…because what is funny is often a matter of personal taste.

    * These are not intended to contradict your in-house templates or company policies.

Internet Marketing Company - Jenkinson And Associates Ltd.

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