Business affects everyone. If you don’t end up in a business-oriented occupation, you will certainly have to engage in business as a client or customer. Skill in business writing is also a valuable asset for job-seekers. Businesses in almost every field need skilled writers. Advertisements, applications, reports, contracts, manuals, proposals, and memos are composed, revised, published and read in thousands of businesses across the nation. Then there are the countless letters, forms, and documents all of us encounter over the course of our everyday lives. There are few jobs these days that don’t require some kind of skill with the written word.

Our world is increasingly dependent on the clear and effective communication of information. Often this communication takes place through face-to-face interaction or telephone conversations. There are numerous situations, however, in which written contact is preferable. Writing allows time to think things through and present information in the clearest, most concise manner. Writing provides a record that can be filed for future reference. A written message can be sent to a large number of people at once. In many cases, written communication carries more weight and is taken more seriously than a spoken conversation. For these reasons and more it is important to become familiar with basic business writing skills.

What does effective business writing look like? In many ways, good writing is good writing regardless of its particular purpose, but the following characteristics are especially important for business writing.

CLEAR PURPOSE

The well-known saying, “Time is money,” is well-known because it’s true. Nobody – especially a business person – wants his time wasted, so be sure your purpose is clear and that what you write is worth taking the time to read.

CLARITY AND CONCISENESS

There is a time and a place for creative figures of speech and poetic turns of phrase, but rarely is a business letter that time or place. The priority in business writing is the effective communication of specific information. Avoid wasting words and be precise with the ones you choose.

AWARENESS OF AUDIENCE

Know the audience you are writing to. It makes a difference whether you are communicating with a customer service representative, a long-time co-worker, or a potential new client. Beware of phrases and expressions that could be misunderstood or offensive. Know what your reader needs and wants to hear, and allow that knowledge to shape your writing.

APPROPRIATE TONE

One tricky aspect of writing is that tone (i.e., the attitude of the writer toward his subject or audience) can easily be misinterpreted. Avoid sarcasm. Be aware that a letter can sound colder and more severe than you may intend. Pay attention not only to what is said, but how your words may be interpreted. Do not be overly informal or familiar.

ATTENTION TO FORM

Business letters, proposals, memos, and many other types of business writing require particular formats. Adhering to standard form eliminates confusion and helps the reader quickly identify the purpose of the document. Attention to details of form is more important in business writing than most other kinds of writing.

In many ways writing in a business setting is less demanding than other kinds of writing. There is little pressure to be creative or particularly original. You are not creating art, after all; you are using the written word for its most basic purpose: to communicate information. This, however, is not always as simple as you might think. Good business writing, like every skill, requires practice.