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Five Easy Tips for Business Writing

October 9, 2012

Tania Buonopane is an account executive with Rhino Public Relations. Questions or comments? Contact her at tania@rhinopr.com, Twitter @RhinoPR_Tania or visit www.rhinopr.com.

As someone new to the public relations industry, I decided to take a writing course to strengthen my skills and learn new techniques. Following are five tips and tricks that are helpful for any writer to remember, whether you are an experienced professional or a beginner.

1. Be reader centric: Forget about yourself, think about your reader. When writing, it’s important to think about your reader: what do they want to know, what are their questions, and why are you writing to them? Don’t make your reader work to figure out what you’re trying to say. You want to make understanding your message as easy as possible for your reader. Read your message out loud. Are these the words you would use if delivering your message face-to-face (depending on how formal your message must be)? Sometimes it helps to imagine having a conversation with your reader. For example, if you are writing a message to announce a meeting, think about how you would tell the person about the meeting face-to-face, rather than over email. The person might ask you:

  • What’s the agenda for the meeting?
  • Where is the meeting?
  • When is it?
  • How long will it last?
  • What if I can’t attend?
  • How should I prepare?

Anticipate your readers’ questions and make sure to clarify all explanations.

2. Cut the fluff: Can your message be more direct? Don’t use five words to explain something when two words will suffice. As a general rule, emails should be able to be digested in 60 seconds or less. Make sure to re-read your work and revise any wordiness. Tighten up long sentences by cutting out heavy phrases. For example:

  • for the purpose of = for
  • on a daily basis = daily
  • in order to = to
  • provide an introduction= introduce

3. Leave time for planning: Remember when your teacher needed to see an outline of your essay before the first draft? There is validity in leaving time for planning and editing. For longer messages or articles, create an outline of topics you’d like to cover. Once you have a solid draft, walk away from it for at least a day. Give yourself space so you can regain clarity on the topic. You’ll read the piece with new eyes, and you’ll be able to revise, edit, and make changes if need be.

4. Word choice matters: Verbs are the most important words in a sentence. Feeling like you reuse verbs a lot? Try this trick: circle all of the verbs in the message or article you are writing. Next, use a thesaurus to find new verbs and replace at least half of the original verbs with the new verbs.

5. So what?: This last suggestion circles back to suggestion number one, being reader centric. Everything you write must have a purpose. Make sure to ask yourself “so what?” while writing. This will ensure that you’re providing valuable information to your reader. “Why should I care about this?” is also another good question to consider. By asking yourself these questions, you will realize what’s essential in a message and what can be cut out. You’ll also have a happy reader!

Remember – writing is a process and it can always be polished.

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