Writing for business isn’t hard, if you can slow down. Hurrying makes it difficult. Or maybe you put off writing? Maybe you feel vague about what to say. Every writer struggles with this uncertainty, whether in novels or emails.
Writing is not just recording. It’s discovering how we want to express ourselves. At our recent Readers and Writers Festival on Denman Island, author Derek Lundy said, “I write to find out what I think.” Discovery takes time. Crafting clear messages takes patience.
Write only short, simple sentences. You won’t lose the thread and nor will your readers. Forget about the formal business phrases. Use the shortest possible words. Avoid clutter, like buzz phrases (brackets with stuff that should be in a separate sentence), dashes, and made-up words (unless you’re writing fiction or humour).
Use lots of paragraphs, and limit them to three or four sentences. Connect each sentence with the previous. This will ensure you keep to one topic per paragraph. Try switching sentences around. Make sure each paragraph flows from the previous to the next. Help your readers by writing subheadings on every third or fourth paragraph.
Vary the Rhythm
English can be written very tersely. This saves space, but then readers might have to stop and think. Sentences that flow like a lazy bike-ride will hold attention, if they’re loaded with just enough information to keep them rolling. Commas can help a lot, semicolons usually don’t. Attractive sentences hold attention simply by their architecture.
Break the Rules
While writing this, I’ve changed every sentence at least three times. I wanted the simplest possible writing, to encourage reluctant writers like you. Write like you’re explaining to a friend over coffee. That may mean choosing an informal style, like spoken language, over correct grammar.
<<Because simple just works better>> is not correct grammar, but it’s short, clear, memorable, and can’t be misunderstood. If you break the rules of grammar too much, or too often, you risk being misunderstood. If you write like you speak, be sure your readers speak like that too.
Review it or Regret it
Experienced writers know that when it seems to be done, it’s not. Like fresh bread or hot coffee, it has to cool first. Let sit a while. Think about the total message, and your readers.
We’ve all sent emails that we wish we’d changed, right? Everyone needs to proof read, to check the tone, the content, and fix the errors. Read these sentences aloud. Which is easier to understand?
<< Drinking a glass of water, and then proof reading, is a good step to better communications. >>
<<Drink a glass of water between writing and proof reading. It’s a good step to better writing.>>
If you edit while proof reading, you’ll need to repeat the process. Don’t forget the peripherals, like the subject line, main heading, or appendices. Only then should you click Send or Print.
If you’re serious about this, get these two classics (from Amazon, or used book stores):
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White