Employees from C-suite executives to administrative coordinators write to instruct, inform, persuade, or complete a transaction. Regardless of the objective, all writing requires the same essentials to fulfill its designated purpose and communicate clear, concise ideas.
Obstacles to productive, effective professional writing include errors, extraneous words, jargon, and unnecessary information—essentially anything that hinders the readers’ ability to gain value upon finishing the text.
Advanced writing assistant tools are geared toward helping business writers more confidently identify these common pitfalls and persevere with context-based suggestions. Committing to mastering the fundamentals of professional writing will lead to substantial gains in productivity that make the time and effort worthwhile.
What is effective professional writing?
Effective professional writing is clear, relevant, persuasive, and results-oriented to achieve specific business goals. The following characteristics will support managers, supervisors, and team leaders by increasing confidence, currying greater respect, and driving measurable productivity among teams:
Clarity and conciseness
Objective: You only have 15 seconds to capture a reader’s attention. All too often, writing is meandering and veers off course, rather than being initiated with a clear objective in mind. Audiences better resonate with writing that gets to the point. One can’t assume readers have time to wade into a novel-length piece of content trying to convey a single message. The best writers aim for quick, easy, and memorable reads.
Content should be:
- Simple: In his 1991 book, The Miracle of Language, Richard Lederer instructed, “When you speak and write, there is no law that says you have to use big words. Short words are as good as long ones, and short, old words—like sun and grass and home—are best of all. A lot of small words, more than you might think, can meet your needs with a strength, grace, and charm that large words do not have.”
Leaders often feel they need to use complex jargon, industry acronyms, and lofty words to sound intellectual. Yet, they end up talking over the heads of their audiences. Communicating in short sentences with ordinary words conveys the clearest thought. Instead of saying “close proximity,” a writer can use “near,” or “use” instead of “utilize.” Grammarly Business understands this principle and can analyze content in real-time, providing suggestions for improvement.
- Logical: Sentences should be arranged logically, with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Paragraphs should contain no more than seven lines as a general rule—not sentences, but lines. Bullet points, subheadings, bolded text, and visual graphics can be used judiciously to support the main body text while aiding in quick skimmability.
- Active: Clarity demands active voice rather than passive. For instance, “The researcher analyzed the data” is much clearer than “The data was analyzed.”
- Succinct: Editing for bloat requires careful consideration, but it is the hallmark of a truly effective professional writer. Every sentence must convey an original and essential message. Traditionally, business leaders allocated up to 30% of their time for editing. New writing assistant tools greatly cut down on time spent editing and reviewing, freeing managers to work on other tasks. In turn, putting forth this extra effort before hitting “send” or “publish” saves teams a considerable deal of time in reading, interpreting, and clarifying.
- Precise: Think of each word as costing a dollar. Suddenly, it becomes easy to cut extraneous words like “definitely,” “somewhat,” “quite,” and “very,” as none of these obscurities add to the integrity of a sentence. Vague words should be used with caution, as they are so overused they tend to lose meaning. Instead, use specific measurements to demonstrate change and efficacy.
- Original: To engage audiences, wise leaders avoid tired, overused clichés. Some examples include:
- Instead of as plain as day, try apparent.
- Instead of ballpark figure, try approximately.
- Instead of few and far between, try infrequent.
- Instead of needless to say, try obviously.
- Instead of last but not least, try finally.
Ensuring every piece of company-owned content is original and brand-aligned is simple with Grammarly Business. Employing a built-in style guide that you can customize to your company’s preferences, Grammarly will scan content in seconds and compare it to the style guide, making recommendations based on the set preferences.
- Credible: Citing sources and using qualifiers as necessary creates better transparency, accountability, and goodwill among the team. For instance, phrases like “we recommend,” “we believe,” or “in our opinion” explain that the company is acting on the best available knowledge at the time. Avoiding words like “never,” “always,” “all,” and “none” maintains accuracy in writing.
Spelling and grammar
Objective: U.S. businesses with spelling and grammar errors on their websites will lose almost twice as many customers as U.S. businesses with error-free websites, according to research. While it may seem like just forgetting a comma, or accidentally writing “there” instead of “their” wouldn’t have that great of an effect on your business, error-free content conveys that careful thought, consideration, and time was spent during the writing process. Page after page of flawlessly executed content organically builds a sense of authority and credibility that the reader immediately trusts.
- Be free of typos: It’s easy to miss a beat, and routine spellcheckers don’t pick up specific errors. The most common mistypes include words like: out (our), form (from), he (the), and off (of). A tool like Grammarly can instantly identify these common typos and provide alternative solutions.
- Have proper punctuation: Without the right punctuation, a chunk of writing devolves into word salad. Ideally, you want readers flying through your content, skimming and digesting effortlessly. Grammarly provides a helpful style guide for punctuation that includes details on apostrophes, commas, exclamation points, hyphens, parentheses, quotation marks, and more.
- Use correct forms of capitalization: Common missteps include the failure to capitalize items like proper nouns, days of the week or months of the year, geographic names, job titles, industry acronyms, and names of specific departments.
A company-wide style guide is a must-have for any organization. This document covers topics like capitalization, tone, phrasing, grammar, spelling, logo/image/color choice, and other rules for consistent branding. Our tool helps you create, edit, maintain, and enforce a style guide that puts the entire team on the same page, while increasing brand trust.
- Feature proper grammatical structure: Grammatical errors like these can distract from the content’s intended message and decrease trust and credibility:
- Sentence fragments: Every sentence must contain a subject (person, place, or thing) and a verb (action word). Sentences should rarely ever begin with words ending in “-ing”; however, there are few exceptions to this rule.
- Nonagreement of subject and verb: Example: “Each person did their assignments independently.” Each is singular, while their is plural. Instead, it might be said, “Each person completed his or her assignments independently” or “Everyone completed their assignments independently.”
- Incorrect word usage: Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently to convey different meanings, like compliment/complement. Commonly confused words also include I vs. me, less vs. fewer, that vs. who, their/there/they’re, and your/you’re.
Objective: Tone refers to the writer’s attitude toward the reader. A misinterpreted message can quickly deter current and prospective customers, as well as create employee disgruntlement. On the other hand, striking the right tone welcomes readers like an informative friend and conveys the message in a respectable, professional manner. Tone shows that you relate to the reader’s wants, needs, interests, feelings, and struggles. Word choice is crucial in establishing a tone that achieves your end goals.
Content should be:
- Approachable yet formal: Jokes, personal anecdotes, colloquial expressions, and “water cooler talk” have their own place and context, but they are not generally used in professional writing. It’s possible to strike the right balance between friendly and professional and write in a tone that conveys confidence and empathy. Messages delivered from a manager or executive should deliver authority and leadership, but they shouldn’t intimidate or put off readers.
- Inclusive: The utmost sensitivity should be practiced when professionally communicating. Every member of the audience should feel addressed and respected. For example, instead of “chairman,” a gender-neutral term like “chairperson” would be preferable. Instead of “Dear Sirs and Madams,” an inclusive phrase like “Dear Retail Managers” may work better.
- Confident: Professional writers often use weak qualifiers like “sort of,” “kind of,” or “pretty much” that dilute the message due to a reluctance to take authority. Yet, this manner of writing also conveys a lack of confidence. Business writers also tend to overuse “and” or “of” in longer sentences. Saying “Training with us is easy, and you can count on us to take care of you” sounds far less confident than simply saying “Training with us is easy. We take care of you.”
While it may seem challenging to incorporate all of these qualities into your writing, Grammarly Business has the ability to analyze tone in real-time. This feature offers employees guidance when their content needs some reworking, or assurance that their content is on the right track.
These tips and guidelines can seem overwhelming to someone who isn’t a trained writer or generally doesn’t enjoy writing. Yet, there are so many reasons why effective professional writing is a worthwhile objective. For starters, team productivity.
How can effective professional writing improve team productivity?
Teams thrive on lightning-quick communication when there are clear directives and few misunderstandings. In a perfect world, all employees would receive well-executed directives, know precisely what’s expected of them, and perform their duties to the best of their abilities. In reality, poor professional writing causes costly, wasteful workplace failures.
New employees fail to receive much-needed training
Josh Bernoff of the Harvard Business Review, painted this picture after surveying 547 business professionals:
“Entry-level employees get little training in how to write in a brief, clear, and incisive way. Instead, they’re immersed in first-draft emails from their managers, poorly edited reports, and jargon-filled employee manuals. Their own flabby writing habits fit right in. And the whole organization drowns in productivity-draining blather.”
Productivity suffers due to poor business communications
Bernoff found the average worker spends 25.5 hours reading for work each week, including about 121 emails per day. That’s nearly half of each workday spent reading! Worse yet, 81% of those surveyed agreed that poorly written material wastes a lot of their time.
Most of the emails, memos, and other documents the professionals read are ineffective due to length, poor organization, unclear sentences, jargon, imprecise language, and grammatical errors. Consider this: spending just one extra minute deciphering each email per day results in unnecessary time loss exceeding two hours.
Wasted time reading at work means lost revenue
Other research supports the notion that ineffective professional writing is causing much-wasted productivity. According to Salesforce, 86% of professionals agree that poor communication results in workplace failures. Furthermore, Siemens found that a 100-person small business devotes 17 hours per week correcting poor communication, which amounts to $528,443 in wasted productivity by the year’s end.
Other studies have found productivity losses of approximately $26,041 per worker per year arising from communication barriers. U.K. private equity firm Manchester Companies estimates miscommunication can cost an organization anywhere from 25% to 40% of its annual budget.
Effective writing leads to a workplace that attracts and retains talent
At the most basic level, effective professional writing saves time on training by communicating the correct information to the right people, eliminating confusion, and outlining the full scope of the project. Going one step further, effective professional writing can convey appreciation, highlight successes, and increase motivation that improves team morale, job satisfaction, and performance. This, in turn, reduces turnover and retains highly engaged employees who boost the company’s bottom line.
Businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have low employee turnover. Not only that, but companies that communicate with efficiency are 4.5 times more likely to retain the best employees. These “connected, engaged employees” give organizations a 20% to 25% increase in productivity, according to a study by McKinsey. The Workplace Research Foundation also found that “highly engaged employees” are 38% more likely to report above-average productivity. Cumulatively, a business with highly engaged employees can outperform competitors without such a workforce with 202% higher performance.
Effective professional writing with Grammarly Business
So the question is not so much if a business professional should invest in improving professional writing skills, but how to best achieve that goal. There is no shortage of educational training courses, business development coaches, and consultants offering assistance. Yet, the answer can be much simpler than that. Using a digital communication tool like Grammarly can increase personal productivity while simultaneously improving one’s business writing quality across all platforms.
Grammarly Business can support the goal of increasing effectiveness in professional writing by:
- Identifying spelling and punctuation errors automatically.
- Offering grammatical suggestions to improve correctness, clarity, and engagement.
- Enlivening messages with vivid words that may not immediately come to mind.
- Monitoring tone to exude confidence, competency, and appropriateness.
- Integrating across different channels, including email, collaborative platforms, social media, productivity platforms, CRM software, and more.
Grammarly Business functions as an “AI-powered writing assistant” that helps business teams sound more polished and professional in their written words while taking into account every team member’s personal expertise, learning, and growing alongside them.
The application of natural language processing and machine learning to develop constructive feedback and improvements landed Grammarly on Fast Company’s list of “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” in 2019.
Contact us to learn more about the emerging role of digital writing assistants in the workplace. Take a fast, affordable, and almost effortless step toward more effective professional writing with Grammarly Business.