Skip Nav

Effective Business Writing: Use appropriate writing style

6.2 Writing Style

❶What's the format for a business letter? Respect personal space by not forwarding every e-mail you think is funny.

Formal versus Informal

One of the worst things is mixing metaphors. Keep it simple by using plain English. Many native speakers of English make the mistake of using too many unnecessary words. Replace wordy expressions with one or two words when possible. Many native English speakers also do not know the difference between the use of passive and active voices.

Good writing requires the use of strong, precise verbs in the active voice. The subject acts on the verb. The passive voice, however, has its place. Here is an example: The CEO believes that the company should launch a new marketing strategy.

In the passive voice, the action is emphasized rather than the actor: It is believed by the CEO that a new marketing strategy should be launched. You can also use the passive to be diplomatic about not identifying the actor: The letter was badly written.

The passive voice also creates an authoritative tone: You have to fit your language to the audience you are addressing. The editors at Business Writing Clear and Simple recommend that you eliminate buzzwords, avoid technical language, and stay away from bureaucratic jargon. Tone is a reflection of your attitude and personality. As business and industry increasingly trade across borders and languages, writing techniques that obscure meaning or impede understanding can cause serious problems.

Efficient writing styles have become the norm. Consider the following comparison of informal versus formal and bureaucratic styles. Attached is the latest delivery data represented in topographical forms pursuant to the directive ABC of the air transportation guide supplied by the Federal Aviation Administration in September of While it is generally agreed that bureaucratic forms can obscure meaning, there is a debate on the use of formal versus informal styles in business communication.

Formal styles often require more detail, adhere to rules of etiquette, and avoid shortcuts like contractions and folksy expressions. Informal styles reflect everyday speech patterns and may include contractions and colloquial expressions. Many managers prefer not to see contractions in a formal business context.

Keep in mind that audiences have expectations and your job is to meet them. Some business audiences prefer a fairly formal tone. If you include contractions or use a style that is too casual, you may lose their interest and attention; you may also give them a negative impression of your level of expertise. If, however, you are writing for an audience that expects informal language, you may lose their interest and attention by writing too formally; your writing may also come across as arrogant or pompous.

It is not that one style is better than the other, but simply that styles of writing vary across a range of options. Business writing may need to meet legal standards and include references, as we see in the bureaucratic example above, but that is generally not the norm for communications within an organization. The skilled business writer will know his or her audience and will adapt the message to best facilitate communication.

Choosing the right style can make a significant impact on how your writing is received. You may hear reference to a conversational tone in writing as one option in business communication. A conversational tone , as the name implies, resembles oral communication in style, tone, and word choice. It can be appropriate for some audiences, and may serve you well in specific contexts, but it can easily come across as less than professional.

Trust is the foundation for all communication interactions and a careless word or phrase can impair trust. If you want to use humor, think carefully about how your audience will interpret it. Humor is a fragile form of communication that requires an awareness of irony, of juxtaposition, or a shared sense of attitudes, beliefs, and values. Different people find humor in different situations, and what is funny to one person may be dull, or even hurtful, to someone else.

Although there are business situations such as an interview or a performance self-evaluation where you need to state your accomplishments, in general business writing it is best to avoid self-referential comments that allude to your previous successes.

These can come across as selfish or arrogant. Instead, be generous in giving credit where credit is due. Take every opportunity to thank your colleagues for their efforts and to acknowledge those who contributed good ideas. Jargon is a vocabulary that has been developed by people in a particular group, discipline, or industry, and it can be a useful shorthand as long as the audience knows its meaning.

Finally, in a business context, remember that conversational style is not an excuse to use poor grammar, disrespectful or offensive slang, or profanity. Communication serves as the bridge between minds and your written words will represent you in your absence. Take care, take time, and make sure what you write communicates a professional tone that positively represents you and your organization. Sometimes the first sentence is the hardest to write. When you know the two main opening strategies it may not make it any easier, but it will give a plan and form a framework.

Business documents often incorporate one of two opening strategies regardless of their organizational pattern. The direct pattern states the main purpose directly, at the beginning, and leaves little room for misinterpretation.

The indirect pattern, where you introduce your main idea after the opening paragraph, can be useful if you need a strong opening to get the attention of what you perceive may be an uninterested audience.

Normally, if you expect a positive response from the reader you will choose a direct opening, being clear from the first sentence about your purpose and goal. If you do not expect a positive reception, or have to deliver bad news, you may want to be less direct.

Each style has its purpose and use; the skilled business writer will learn to be direct and be able to present bad news with a positive opening paragraph. There are times when you will want to add emphasis to a word, phrase, or statistic so that it stands out from the surrounding text. The use of visual aids in your writing can be an excellent option, and can reinforce the written discussion. For example, if you write that sales are up 4 percent over this time last year, the number alone may not get the attention it deserves.

If, however, near the text section you feature a bar graph demonstrating the sales growth figures, the representation of the information in textual and graphical way may reinforce its importance. As you look across the top of your word processing program you may notice bold , italics , underline, highlights, your choice of colors, and a host of interesting fonts. Although it can be entertaining to experiment with these visual effects, do not use them just for the sake of decoration.

Still, when you need to highlight an important fact or emphasize a key question in a report, your readers will appreciate your use of visual effects to draw their attention. Consider the following examples:. Emphasis can be influenced by your choice of font.

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman and Garamond, have decorative ends that make the font easy to read.

Sans serif fonts, like Arial, lack these visual cues and often serve better as headers. Avoid jargon, unusual terms and made-up words unless they're the standard in your industry and you're sure everyone understands them. Ask yourself if every reader knows the meanings of every term you use. Remove any terms that may confuse readers or define the terms the first time you use them. Some examples of buzzwords are "repurpose," "mindshare" and "spin-up.

Ensure that your verbs haven't been turned into nouns. It's always clearer to write "the department heads decided" than to write "the department heads have made a decision. Talk about action, and don't weaken statements with qualifiers. Don't write "employees should review the procedures, if possible, during their next shift" or "we are tentatively changing the schedule," because these statements aren't clear that the employees are required to review the procedure or that they can argue against the change in schedule.

Make unqualified statements like, "review the procedure" and "we have changed the schedule. Make lists whenever possible. You can do this by using a colon and then separating list items with commas "Do the following: What do I need to do after adding the name of the business, owner's name under that, and then my initials? Answer this question Flag as

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Jun 12,  · Writing using proper business style is very different than using personal or academic styles. A business document is not a place to show off your vocabulary and grammar skills or to highlight your creativity%(33).

Privacy FAQs

style in business writing The term, "style," in this guide to business writing refers to the shape, voice, and force of sentences. Business writing style differs significantly from academic writing style.

About Our Ads

A Los Angeles Business journal article explained that billions of dollars are lost due to insufficient writing skills among business people. It happens, for example, when a customer does not understand the email, marketing tool, or proposal by a company because of wrong grammar or awkward style and tone. Business writing is a type of professional communication and is also known as business communication and professional writing. Learning how to write proper business documents is immeasurably easier by studying examples of proper business writing as well as tips on how to accomplish it.

Cookie Info

The BEHQ Guide to Business Writing describes 15 basic areas you must work at to write clearly and effectively.. In essence, the BEHQ Guide explains in plain English methods and techniques to. There are 4 styles for business writing you can use to effectively communicate your message. Discover the impact style can have on your writing with Hurley.