Contributed by Julie Petersen
Entrepreneurs are well known as passionate and proactive professionals who are able to put business ideas into practice. This is a talent not everyone possesses, just like writing is a talent not all entrepreneurs possess. It is, however, a very important skill to master. Entrepreneurs can be so much more effective when they learn to express their ideas and passions in writing.
Writing is not a simple craft, however. To do a great job, you’ve got to juggle many elements at once. But it’s worth it. Learning how to write well is more profitable than you might expect. Bad writing is such a significant problem, it costs American businesses almost $400 billion annually in wasted time and lost sales – a figure which suggests that entrepreneurs really should dedicate some time to its mastery.
Plan the Structure
Like most complex endeavors, writing is best executed with a plan. Create an outline of your text and divide it into logical units:
- Supporting paragraphs and construction of the argument
In the initial paragraph, give a brief introduction of your message. Explain it more thoroughly in the second part. The conclusion serves to summarize your thoughts and send calls to action.
Entrepreneurs often write a lot of emails. They draft up proposals and job descriptions. Sometimes they write their own websites. Some even write articles for their own or other’s blogs. Just about all of this kind of writing is done with the purpose to persuade and/or get a reader to take action, and so the basic structure should be followed to ensure the purpose is expressed clearly and logically.
Organizing the supporting points is crucial to help the reader understand the overall message. Use numbered lists or bullets as well as headings to help the reader scan your content quickly. These days, people don’t read things thoroughly so having a clear structure helps even very busy individuals understand the focal points.
Avoid Professional Jargon
Experts in any field tend to use a lot of professional jargon. It helps them quickly get their points across without having to break down complex concepts they and their peers already understand. This is fine when speaking or writing to others within the field, but as soon as you start communicating with those outside the field, you need to leave the jargon behind and speak in clear English. Take a look at this example:
“The complaint sought damages and various forms of equitable relief, including an injunction barring the defendants from continuing the program.”
You can see here that if you aren’t familiar with law, you are going to have to go look up a lot of jargon just to understand the sentence. Again, this is fine when communicating with other lawyers but confusing to the rest of us. Spell out acronyms and briefly explain industry words and concepts. Those new to your topic or just beginning to learn it will gain more from your writing if you spell things out.
Prove Your Claims
Some of your writing may be intended to show off your skill or product to your readers. That’s great, but be ready to prove your statements in your email, presentation, or report.
For instance, if you say that the latest version of your software reduced operational costs, document the corresponding data in your financial reports to prove it. This will make you more of an authority, rather than just someone trying to make themselves look good.
Never write anything that you can’t prove. People today are exposed to hundreds of brand messages all day long. Many of those are fluffy claims that their products are the best, number 1, outmatched, etc. Consumers know they’re being lied to. By now, we’re getting good at sniffing it out and will disregard any message with a hint of falsification.
Add a Personal Touch
Business writing doesn’t have to be strictly formal. On the contrary, sometimes you make the biggest impact on potential clients when you address them in a more casual manner. You may not want to go so far as telling jokes, but it’s okay to let a little bit of your personality show through.
Ask about a colleague’s newborn child or comment on another recent life or business event. Being friendly helps establish a closer relationship with business partners. Relationships are key to a thriving business so use this opportunity to build them.
The importance of proofreading cannot be underestimated. While you may think you’re doing a stellar job writing up your email or proposal, you probably made a lot more mistakes than you think you did. You may have also left out important information or included some irrelevant information. Sending or publishing sloppy writing will make you look unprofessional and harm your reputation. For this reason, you have to dedicate some time to proofread what you just wrote.
If you don’t have enough time and you do have the resources, you can ask a colleague to proofread your work. For larger projects, you might choose to hire an expert to do it for you. However you go about it, make sure to get it done. Mistakes are easy to make while you’re in the creative process of getting your ideas out. When you’re thinking about what you want to say, and the logical structure of how you want to say it, some details get lost and mistakes get made. Take the time to go back and correct them.
Writing skills have the potential to boost a business to new heights. In this article, we showed you 5 steps on how to improve your writing skills. Make sure to follow these tips and you will soon experience the advantages of proficient business writing.
Julie Petersen is a freelance writer and an editor. She runs her blog Askpetersen where she tries to help everyone improve their writing skills.