As you may have already discovered, business writing is not the same as the assignments you did when you were in high school. Grade school assignments focus on demonstrating you’ve learned something well enough to explain it or proving you’ve read and understood the designated reading materials. Business writing is much more direct, to the point, and driven primarily by your intended audience. These seven steps will help you through the process of writing for business purposes.
- Identify your intended audience. Writing for clients is different than writing a proposal to pitch to your boss. The number one key to success in most business writing is addressing the correct audience in the best way possible.
- Use the first two to three sentences of your essay to engage your audience. Some readers will give you more time but if you haven’t convinced them by the end of the first paragraph that your writing is something they want to read you may lose them. This rule still holds true even if what you’re writing is something they need to know.
- Use bullet or numbered lists when applicable. Lists are easier to digest than large paragraphs of information. Also, some readers jump straight to the list making it an excellent tool to highlight the most important pieces of information you want the reader to take with them.
- Avoid wordiness or passive voice. Both are pet peeves of a vast number of people which likely includes at least one of your business school instructors.
- Know when facts need to be presented and referenced and when they need an explanation. To some audiences, saying 67% of accounts receivable are no longer outstanding makes sense. Others may require some explanation. For example, you might add that it’s a great thing because it means two-thirds of the credit you’ve extended to your customers will be paid off. For stockholders, you might put a dollar value to the percentage to give it more meaning.
- Sleep on it for a night or give the essay to someone else to read to confirm the article flows logically. Sometimes as you’re writing, you might get distracted and miss a critical piece of your argument. It’s also possible that something glaringly obvious to you might be a leap for everyone else to take. A minor explanation can avoid confusion in your audience.
- Wrap up your most important points in your conclusion and don’t introduce new information. Sometimes people read conclusions only and skip the rest of the document. The ones that do will go back and look for parts they want to understand further if they see something interesting. Besides being poor writing practice, the readers who like to jump to the end first will be confused and frustrated when they can’t find the topic in the core of the document itself.
Follow these seven steps and your business school essay will be significantly better than those of your peers. Keep in mind throughout the learning process that business writing just isn’t the same as writing for school assignments. You’re learning a new skill even if it feels like you’re doing the same old thing you’ve done for years. Good luck in business school!