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Communication is at the heart of business, whether you’re telling customers why they should buy your product, or negotiating contracts with suppliers. Since the coronavirus outbreak took hold, staying in regular contact with your important connections has been even more essential.

With so much uncertainty due to global health and economic crises, your customers will appreciate you keeping in touch. But many other businesses will also be reaching out to your market, so it’s still vital that your standard of business writing – whether to clients, suppliers, colleagues, or on your own website – remains high.

The quality of any written communication sent on behalf of the company can leave a lasting impression on the recipients. Your customers and contractors don’t expect you to be a prize-winning author, but writing that is poor in fundamental ways can suggest a lack of care or attention to detail, which could leave a negative impression of your company.

Here are our top tips for cleaning up your copy for business emails:

1 – Keep it simple, keep it brief.

There are two literary quotes that apply to 99% of all writing. One is from Mark Twain, who famously suggested not to “use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do.” The other is from Shakespeare, who quipped in Hamlet that “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

The first is referring to overly flowery language, while the second is about keeping it short and sweet. In business communication, both are key. The likelihood is that your contact is busy, so they’ll appreciate polite, concise and clear messages that don’t take ages to read, and can’t be misinterpreted.

If you need to send more in-depth information, think about attaching that as a separate document, as it will be easier to read there. Multiple points should also often be saved for multiple emails, as each successive point in an email is less and less likely to be actioned.

2 – Use your spelling and grammar check function – every time.

Two ‘pairs of eyes’ are better than one, and the computer’s aren’t too bad! While spellcheck won’t always get things spot on, it’s better than nothing. Make sure you have it set to your local language and dialect, though – US English is the bane of many a writer in the UK.

If spellcheck doesn’t do it for you, you may want to consider an application such as Grammarly. This goes into a bit more depth and can intepret context slightly better than your usual spellcheck, as well as giving you general writing advice. Just don’t lean on it too heavily, or your writing won’t end up sounding like you at all.

3 – Don’t use business jargon or ‘business-ese’.

Striving for clarity means that you’re less likely to annoy recipients, or accidentally muddle your message. Try to avoid euphemisms and phrases whose meaning might not be immediately clear to everyone, particularly when talking to people from different countries, or who aren’t as well versed in your industry.

For example, don’t write, ‘We’re considering a different direction for our stationery needs, so we wanted to touch base with you about price expectations’, if what you mean is, ‘We need to reduce our stationery budget – can you offer us a discount on X, Y and Z?’ Junk the jargon – clarity is king.

4 – Know your audience.

How formal or informal your messaging can be to any given contact will depend on various factors, such as how long you’ve known them personally, their preferred style of communication, and the nature of the news you’re sharing. If in doubt, err on the more formal side, at least until you have a sense of their preference. Save kisses and emojis for your personal correspondence with friends!

If you’re wriitng public communications or copy, consider your brand voice and messaging. If you don’t have a tone of voice guide, this may be a good time to invest in one. The aim should be to come across in the best way possible in each interaction with customers, regardless of who is writing. Writing in different styles can muddle your message, and speak to discord inside the company.

Oh, and did we mention spell check?

How can you improve your business writing skills?

Our Business Report Writing course is ideal for anybody who is responsible for producing reports for colleagues and clients, or who wishes to brush up on their business writing skills. Learn about common mistakes, how to produce outlines and how to introduce greater clarity in your writing, improving everything from documents to emails.

View course details

Mark Fryer

10th September 2020

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