Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Basic Tenets of Business Writing

Author: Shreyasi Majumdar

‘Arduous’, ‘tenuous’, ‘sterile’ and ‘downright boring’ are some of the terms which tend to pop up in our mind when we think of business writing. Although a memo or a presentation may sound run-on-the-mill and dull with respect to more popular forms of writing such as fiction and poetry, ‘official writing’ does in fact warrant immense creativity and is equally important in today’s finance-ruled day and age.

What is business writing and what does it entail?

Writing is broadly classified into fiction and non-fiction writing. Similarly, business writing is categorized into two genres: writing ABOUT business – business journalism and writing FOR business – business writing.

Business journalism (or financial journalism), involves tracking, recording, analyzing, interpreting and presenting information pertaining to the economic world. Stock market news, commodity markets, personal finance, local and international retail landscape, reports on SME’s, strategic corporate announcements and more fall under this gamut.

On the other hand, business writing is simply that – writing for business. Business writing is a generic term used for both internal and external communication flow of an organisation. It includes (but is not limited to) newsletters, official correspondence, emails, memos and business proposals. The scope of business writing also includes statistical, analytical and corporate overview reports, feasibility/research reports, power point presentations, press releases, marketing brochures, copywriting, technical writing, blogging and tasks as mundane as filling out job applications and structuring resumes.

Business writing tips

Business writing sounds simple enough.

But, why is it that we often fail to produce good quality, well-structured presentations? Why do we have trouble conveying issues by mail? What sets apart one press release from the next? What should we do to jazz up the advertisements and brochures lying around?

Identify your audience: Knowing your target readers will enable you to chart out the information specific to your audience, use the right language for them and formulate the most effective ways of eliciting the desired response from them.

Stick to the point. Remember, no matter who your target readers are, they are intelligent people in the finance and business world and can figure out fluff from the real deal. So restrain yourself from beating around the bush.

Keep it simple. Your readers are busy people, who do not have much time to go through details and intricacies. As such, leave out unnecessary jargon and keep your work as concise and lucid as possible. Also, if you have a varied reader base, try not to be too technical or industry specific.

Get the interest charged up: especially in case of advertisements or marketing material. If you want to sell a product, it is necessary to hold your reader’s interest, with a tone persuasive enough to encourage them to purchase the service or product you have to offer.

Call to action. An oft forgotten and forsaken aspect of writing up a business proposal or marketing brochure is an absence for a “call to action” in the material. Your reader has heard of your business plan or he loves your product. But what next? Do not leave him out on a limb. Give him something to hang on to – a next step to take the venture/deal/purchase forward.

Focus: Another important thing to keep in mind is – it is not about you. If you are preparing a power point presentation or a press release, keep the tone of the writing directed towards the person who is reading it. Do not give in to the temptation of flooding the piece with your or your company’s credentials and achievements. Stay away from the “Me’s” and “I’s” and focus on the “You’s”.

Lastly and of course of prime importance, is the spell check. No matter how good you are at what you do, first impressions always count. A complete and thorough grammar and spell check is imperative and highly recommended before submission of the final write up, be it a blog post, a copy written article, a feature for the Financial Times or a memo.

Business writing does not need to be a routine task. Researching and structuring a business story or work place communication, requires as much skill and patience as any other kind of writing – and if you manage to do it well, you deserve a pat on the ‘business’ back.

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