Ineffective communication can cause unnecessary confusion and complications at work. Your immediate relationships can suffer, your reputation is at risk, and your contributions are, literally, less meaningful. However, if you can improve your business writing, you can improve your effectiveness (and status) within your organization. So, let’s take a quick look at the top five principles of effective business writing with tips for how you can use them to your advantage.

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1 Align your writing style to your audience’s goals

When you can align your writing style to your audience’s goals, it’s easier to achieve your own. But, first, you have to ask yourself: 

  • Who am I trying to reach with this message?
  • What do I need from them?
  • Why will this message be important to them? 
  • What are their priorities? 
  • And, how can I shape this message so it positively impacts both me and my audience?

There are subtle yet significant differences in how you approach different communication formats and channels. Plus, you need to address audience pain points, motivations, and goals. Understanding how and when to use different business writing styles will greatly impact whether your message achieves the desired result.

Team Training 1:1 Onboarding
You need to update team training resources. Your goal is to increase onboarding efficiency by 20% and ensure 90% process adoption. You might choose a formal, instructional writing style and methodically communicate each step in a pre-recorded webinar, slides, a comprehensive PDF guide, and companion emails. You’ve accepted a promotion, and you’re onboarding your successor during their first 30 days. You might create formal checklists with informal margin comments. You might also set up a one-on-one Slack channel where you can communicate in a friendly, personable way that might not shine through in a checklist. 

Once you’re clear on how to align your message with the audience’s needs, it’s time to craft your message in a tone and style that’s both appropriate and effective.

2 Tailor your tone to the task at hand

Go beyond professional and empathetic business communication by tailoring your writing tone to the context of your message:

  • Who are you communicating with? An internal email to a peer should look different from a one-on-one chat with a customer.
  • What is your role within the company? HR communications tend to require a higher level of empathy than, say, a report from the sales department.
  • On what channel are you communicating? A live customer support chat must be more compassionate and concise than an in-depth report you email to your CEO.

When in doubt, you can use Grammarly’s tone detector to verify that your message is hitting the right notes. Our new brand tones feature is particularly useful to ensure tone matches your overall brand personality, regardless of your communication context. A carefully tailored tone fosters better business relationships by ensuring your messages are always interpreted as you intend them to be.

Then, you can craft a message structure and format to help your audience scan and digest meaning quickly and clearly.

3 Leverage structure and formatting to improve clarity

If you’ve ever received a long email from a colleague that buried the main point of several scrolls down, you know how significant structure is in keeping your audience engaged.

Formatting can make or break the effectiveness of your message. 

Here’s another example: A short sales email can work well when crafted as a friendly few sentences. However, if you’re answering complex questions that require several paragraphs (which might include messages more digestible as bullet points), maybe you need to tease out your message into companion documentation like a sell sheet or share a product/services deck. 

What else can impact effective communication? Subtle choices, such as the font, spacing, ordered or bulleted list items, headers, and document justification (or margin alignment) also impact scannability and readability. For longer documents, don’t overlook the value of a table of contents or a compendium of appendices. You want to make it easy for your audience to find and focus on what matters most to them.

4 Maintain consistency

To establish and maintain trust with your audience, you’ve got to communicate your clear, tailored messages consistently. A brand or team style guide can be a powerful tool for keeping your team—and the company as a whole—on the same page. When you define and stick to your style guides, you project a cohesive brand presence across all communication touchpoints. This invites brand recognition and brand trust, your ultimate business currency.

Marketing Use Case: Sales Use Case:
Your team is responsible for creating content across multiple platforms, including social media, paid media, and the company blog. You turn to your company style guide to ensure you and the team consistently use the correct tone, phrasing, and branded or brand-specific terms that help differentiate your company from your competitors. You’re a sales-driven organization with lean marketing resources, so you need to empower (and rein in) your entrepreneurial sales force with explicit and intentional communication standards. You turn to snippets and style guides. Now everyone from new hires to seasoned sales stars can communicate about your unique products and services using proven best practices consistently.

Pro-tip: Grammarly Business offers multiple style guides so you can create easy-to-follow standards that keep your messages consistently on point and on brand. Style guides coach every team member on your approved company language in real-time. Leaders can create up to 50 different style guides to fit the needs of different teams within your organization.

5 Write with a clear call to action in mind

A clear call to action is vital if you want to make an impact and generate results. After all, clearly defining your expectations or making an “ask” of your audience does more than influence behavior. It also lets you connect honestly and directly with your audience, who will likely appreciate your straightforwardness.

Even if your only intent is to share pertinent information, be sure to clarify that no further action is necessary on your reader’s part. A clear call to action helps prevent misunderstandings, improve internal productivity, and fosters positive relationships through improved team and customer experiences.

Internal Call to Action External Call to Action
In an email to a workplace peer, you can be very direct, clearly laying out a set of expectations they need to meet:

Please send your draft to me and cc: Dinesh by end of day this Thursday

You want to generate awareness for a new product or service, so you offer a softer call to action rather than a pitch to buy now:

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Keep Learning

Want more great resources to help you develop even better business communication skills? Stay connected to the Writing for Business Impact series. You can grow your professional communication advantage right from your inbox. Stay tuned for Lesson 2: How to Upgrade Your Business Writing Skills Overnight.

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