Business writing 101
Email Writing 101: How to Write Better Emails in 2021 (14+ Ways)
Writing top-notch emails is easier said than done. Unlike a blog post or blank canvas, you only have a few fields and so many characters to play with to create an engaging masterpiece.
Email writing is both an art and a science. It’s an art because it takes creativity, technique, and overall good storytelling. And it’s a science because there are formulas and best practices you can follow to nail customer needs and boost engagement.
Whether you’re writing a professional email to your boss, colleague, or customer, or a business email to a list of 100,000+ recipients, there are universal best practices to make your messaging more effective—and these work for other forms of business communications too.
Business writing 101
Good business writing is a skill that should be mastered in all its forms: memorandums, e-mails, marketing campaigns, customer service information, business plans, employee negotiations, and more. If you are in business, you already know that you spend the better part of your day communicating with people through talking, writing, and negotiating. While technology advances have allowed to us to communicate the written word to employees and customers in minutes, most people have not updated their writing skills to keep pace with this near-instantaneous communication.
Communication as we knew it only five, 10, or 20 years ago has been swept away with the tide of technology. Everything is sleeker and faster. However, one thing has remained constant: written communication skills. The success of an individual’s career, as well as the fortunes of any business, may depend on these vital writing skills.
No matter what business you are in, poor written communication is something that can sabotage your success. Yes, we live in a world dominated by computers and telephones; but even today, writing is still one of the most crucial ways to effectively communicate with another person.
Every day at work, you write numerous e-mails, you draft business plans and letters, you compose sales letters to your customers, and you create business proposals. What you write is probably as important as how you write it. Your written communication can work wonders for your company and your success or it can lead to your downfall.
When you go to an important meeting or an interview, you make sure that you are prepared. You dress with care, trying to make an impeccable impression on the people you are about to meet. Whether right or wrong, your appearance can make a world of difference in how other people view you. The same holds true for business writing. Have you ever taken a look at how your written communication appears to other people?
Your writing makes the same kind of impression as your clothes do. It needs to convey that you are an intelligent and skilled person who is a thorough professional. However, if your business writing is riddled with errors and mistakes, rest assured that all notions of your professionalism will quickly fade from your audience’s mind.
If your business writing is rich in content but fails to involve the reader, is not written well, or does not convey your intended message, you have failed in your business communication. Similarly, if your business writing is accurate and professional but lacks content, clarity and facts, then you have also missed the communication objective.
If you want to develop good writing skills, the first thing you need to learn is how to strike a fine balance between your content and the way it is presented.
To achieve this balance, you should start by following the Seven Cs of Business Communication. If you understand and follow these rules, you will develop an unbeatable edge in your business communications.
Clear: Clarity is paramount in any kind of business writing. Not only should you be clear about the message you want to convey but also ensure that it is completely understood by your audience. A good place to begin would be by asking yourself these three questions: What is the purpose of writing this document? Who is the reader? What action do I want the reader to take after reading this document? These questions will help you focus on your content and avoid straying from the point.
Concise: Brevity is the heart of writing. Ensure that your documents are short and sweet. Wordy business correspondence is not only annoying and distracting, but time-consuming on both the writer and reader. Remember, the reader is a professional like you, who has a busy day ahead, so do not waste their time. Keep your content short and simple.
Correct: Written communication says a lot about the writer. If a business letter has spelling mistakes, typos, grammatical errors, and punctuation problems, the impression one gets is that the writer is incompetent and unprofessional. So make sure you review and revise your work before sending it out.
Courteous: A business letter is a professional document; hence, you have to ensure the tone is always courteous and polite. You should never come across as being rude or angry. Similarly, racist, sexist and derogatory remarks must be strictly avoided in all business writing. Also, while writing a business letter, make sure that the spelling of the name and title of the receiver is correct.
Conversational: Your business communication should sound personal and professional. Many company communications do not involve the reader. To keep your audience from being alienated, keep your tone crisp and chatty.
Nine business writing tips to improve your skills
1. Identify your primary goal in business communications
Before approaching any kind of business writing exercise, you have to know what you want to say. Sometimes your key point will be obvious, but other times, it will require some thought.
Either way, setting a primary goal is an important first step for gathering your thoughts into a coherent message. And it’s a major component to successful business communication and writing in general. If you’re clear about your primary objective, you can more easily stick to that point, avoid going off on tangents, and get your message across in a way that’s easily digested by the reader.
One way to quickly ascertain your goal is to sum up the purpose of your message in a single sentence. If it’s extremely short or can’t be contained in a single sentence, you may need to consider alternative methods, like a quick conversation or breaking up your content into more than one email.
2. Focus on your readers’ needs and professional goals
Your audience will dictate so much of how your message is conveyed, so you must understand who they are and what they need. Good writers focus on their audiences’ needs and wants rather than their own. That way, the reader has something to grab hold of, and act on, if that’s the goal.
If you’re writing an email to an employee about third-quarter business goals, the part they play in moving the company forward will be most relevant. In that situation, however, it would be easy to provide more context than is necessary. But providing too much information can make for a lengthy and less effective piece of writing that requires the reader to dig through the information that may not be relevant to them.
On the other hand, if you’re writing to a customer or client, you should aim to answer their questions about your product or service so that they can make an informed decision. Providing valuable context can mean the difference between a quick “yes” or a slow, drawn-out conversation that fades away. The easier you can make things for your reader in your own writing, the more inclined they’ll be to help you accomplish your business goals.
3. Cut to the chase in business writing: Focus on clarity over quantity
Clarity is easily muddled when it comes to the written word, but there are a few ways to easily and quickly address this aspect of business and professional writing (same goes for your personal writing too).
Avoid jargon and overusing acronyms
Jargon can easily creep into both your business writing style. And while it can make conversations a bit faster when speaking with others who are well-versed in your field, business jargon can create confusion with those who aren’t. Again, you have to be aware of whom you’re talking to, and make a judgment call. If you’re writing for someone new to your industry, use words that have a clear, universal meaning.
Shorten and simplify sentences
For better business writing, edit the length of your sentences to hone the clarity of your business communications. For example, you may write “as a result” when “because” is just as accurate. Keeping each sentence to one idea can also help you avoid confusing the reader with run-ons or convoluted compound sentences.
While you’re at it, be sure to look for holes in the context or message — like places where you took a logical leap, or forgot to include information about how something is relevant to the main topic. That way, each sentence and paragraph can support the others in creating a coherent message.
4. Streamline structure and organization
Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin with business communications, especially if you’ve got pages and multiple decks of business research, analysis, and creative ideas. In general, it’s best to focus on a primary idea or topic. This prioritization helps you set expectations for the reader and get to the point without delay.
As a baseline, you should include things like transitions from paragraph to paragraph, or sentence to sentence, to make the words themselves flow more easily. You’ll want to take a top-line approach to the organization, too, if you want your words to be more absorbable.
Break a lengthy email or document into smaller sections
Just as we’re doing in this blog post, we suggest organizing business writing into sections with subheadings and highlights of important information. Include formatting such as line breaks, headers, and short paragraphs to make lengthy copy scannable.
Visually friendly formatting is especially important when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t necessarily have to listen to you, like a prospective client who may not have a lot of time to devote to reading emails.
5. Fine-tune your tone and business writing style
Your style and tone in writing dictate how your readers feel. A professional and friendly voice helps foster a sense of congeniality between yourself and your clients and coworkers.
Email Writing 101: How to Write Better Emails in 2021 (14+ Ways)