Improve Your Business Writing (and Improve Your Business)

Your days of English composition class may be long in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to continue to hone your writing skills.

Effective business writing is essential to a successful business: the corollary is that poor or ineffective writing skills can cost you money if clients don’t understand the message you are attempting to convey. Poor grammar can give customers the impression detail isn’t important to you, and in the highly competitive world of real estate, you don’t need to give potential clients a reason to tell you ‘no.’

Fortunately, you can train yourself in basic business writing skills.

  • Plan before you start. Before you begin writing, make some notes to yourself. What is the purpose of your document? Who is your audience? What message are you trying to convey and why will your reader care? For instance, are you targeting buyers, sellers, or other broker and agents? Know your audience so you can effectively tailor your communication since above all, you want your communications to add value to the reader’s business day.
  • Determine your purpose. Whether you are sending periodic newsletters to people in your database or writing a persuasive e-mail urging sellers to list with you, you need to know how to convey your message. For a persuasive message, you are trying to change someone’s behavior and you need a thorough understanding of recipients.
  • Think about grammar and language. Remember the most common sentence-starter is the subject-verb start – for example, ‘I want; you want.’ Other tips for effective writing include turning nouns into verbs – ‘I would make a recommendation’ becomes ‘I recommend.’ Active voice – ‘we prepared the report’ – conveys more of a sense of urgency than passive voice – ‘the report was prepared’.
  • Use boldface type to emphasize points you want to stress. Using headings and bullet points for break out points makes it easier for the eye to digest information than large blocks of writing.
  • Use simple language. Business writing experts tell us to stay away from fancy language and keep it simple. Instead of ‘utilize,’ write ‘use.’ Stay away from clichés like ‘service-oriented’ and ‘out of the box,’ as well: better to go with a phrase everyone understands, like ‘we think innovatively.”
  • Think like a reporter. Journalism school teaches reporters to include the Five Ws, or five basics needed for all communication: who, what, where, when, why. Answering the questions posed in these short words will convey most of the information your readers need.

Finally, proofread your document thoroughly. Don’t rely on spellcheck, a helpful but not fail-proof tool. You may find it helpful to read a printed copy and by all means, don’t be shy about having a colleague review the document before you send it. A fresh set of eyes can catch mistakes you’ve become accustomed to seeing.

Practicing these skills may feel awkward at first, but continuing to practice them will turn you into a serviceable writer and effective communicator.