Plain business writing (entry 1): Focusing on the reader

Putting your thoughts into words that others can easily understand can be a daunting task. Do you feel you need some help to write better? Follow this blog for a free course in plain business writing.

Our words are seen as a mirror of our thoughts. An unstructured piece of writing full of grammar and spelling errors reflects badly on the author. And this goes for the humble email as much as for a proposal worth millions.

The first rule to crank up your business writing is: Don't try to write a best-seller. You have little chance of getting it right anyway. Keep it 'PLAIN': Planned, Lean, Accurate, In the active tense, and Nice and neat. (I'll be writing some blog posts around this acronym going forward.)

Rule 1: Step back

Ask yourself, "Who am I writing for?" Then step back and put your reader under the spotlight.

One IT specialist writing to another may get away with using lots of jargon. But if you mean to write to Joe Soap, then keep it simple. Small words, short sentences. (You'll be hearing a LOT about small words and short sentences here.)

Is your reader's home language English? If not, weed out any phrases that they may not be familiar with.

What information will ignite your reader's fire? Think of something that would REALLY interest him/her, and kick off with that.

To sum up: To write better, step back and write something your READER wants to read.

Talking of writing for your audience...

"Some of the unsurpassed miracles of English were worked by a poet-dramatist who depended on a popular audience for his living; who noted when it clapped, laughed, or stayed away; who responded to its tastes and its fashions; who was utterly careless of preconceived perfections; and who even entitled a comedy ‘As You Like It’."

(Author unknown – referring to poet-dramatist William Shakespeare)