To increase reader engagement, shift appropriately from writer-focused wording to reader-focused writing. Be judicious. An entire document written with reader-focus wording can feel smarmy or too much like a marketing pitch. Used judiciously, it’s very effective.
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15. Paragraphs seven lines or less online
In email or other documents that will be read online, be certain your paragraphs aren’t longer than seven lines. (Lines, not sentences.) Any longer than that and readability studies show that your readers just see a big block of text and jump over it.
16. Dangling expressions are funny but avoid them
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17. Use regular words to avoid non-sexist writing
18. Headings will allow your readers to scan easily
19. Make it easy for your reader to scan
20. Use format to indicate hierarchy
A Quick Guide to Effective Business Writing
Effective business writing is like oil in the machine of your daily operations—it makes everything run much smoother. Improving the efficacy of your organization’s writing imparts many essential benefits:
Ineffective communication can cause unnecessary confusion, complications, and frustration— leading to productivity, engagement, and revenue loss. In short, it becomes a wrench in the gears that slows your workflow. Let’s explore five core principles of effective business writing and how they can improve communication within your organization.
Principles for effective business writing
1 Align your writing style to your audience
Ask yourself: Who am I trying to reach with this message and why? There are subtle but significant differences in how you would approach different assignments. For example, writing an informative progress update for your team members differs greatly from drafting persuasive content for a blog post meant to draw in potential customers. To write to an audience effectively requires knowing their pain points and motivations. Then, you craft communication that addresses those needs.
Example: Your HR team needs to draft training resources around using a new project management platform. Their goal is to increase employee understanding and onboarding efficiency by 20% this quarter. Since the goal is to teach employees how to do something, you choose an instructional writing style. Your team is methodical about laying out each step carefully and clearly, making sure to include tips for likely troubleshooting issues.
2 Tailor your tone to the task at hand
Who are you communicating with? An internal email to a direct report, for example, should look different from a one-on-one conversation 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. Even your choice of channel can be a factor here—a live customer support chat, for example, must be both more compassionate and concise than an in-depth company health report emailed 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 in ensuring that your tone is also always aligned with your overall brand personality, regardless of the specific context of your communication.
Example: Your marketing team is preparing to launch a new product feature. They want to capture interest from social media by publishing a series of short video skits demonstrating how this feature will help users easily overcome a variety of challenges. When drafting the video scripts, they choose a tone that balances humor with professionalism. This will allow them to entertain as well as inform their audience—while setting the company apart from competitors who have a more serious approach.
3 Leverage structure and formatting to improve clarity
Formatting can make a world of difference in how effectively you get your message across to your audience. A casual email format, for instance, would not be suitable for a complex, in-depth company health report. And if you’ve ever received a ridiculously long email from a colleague that left the main point of the message until several scrolls down, you know how significant structure is in keeping your audience engaged.
Subtler choices, such as the font, spacing, and alignment of your document, can also impact efficacy. Choosing the proper format improves readability, reducing unnecessary frustration for your audience. This also allows them to focus on what matters: the content. Automated writing assistants like Grammarly make this process easier by allowing you to instantly evaluate readability and revise your structure and formatting accordingly.
Example: Your finance team is drafting a company health report to be shared with your CEO as well as with team leaders across departments. An in-depth report like this requires headings and logical organization throughout to ensure the information is as easy as possible to read and digest. To further optimize engagement, you choose to include a clear table of contents up front—this helps the other managers navigate to sections directly pertaining to their departments.
4 Maintain consistency
Consistency is key to establishing and maintaining trust and rapport with customers, clients, and colleagues alike. Avoid industry jargon and complex academic language that may sound impressive, but can ultimately confuse or frustrate audiences and detract from the efficacy of your message.
A brand style guide can be a powerful tool for keeping your team—and the company as a whole—on the same page. Your style guide can help in projecting a cohesive brand presence across all communications. Maintaining consistency fosters trust in your brand as a reliable authority while also improving brand recognition.
Example: Your marketing team is responsible for creating content across multiple platforms, including social media and the company blog. A company style guide helps ensure the team consistently uses the correct tone and verbiage across all platforms, including the use of brand-specific terms that help differentiate your company’s messaging from that of your competitors.
Pro-tip: Grammarly’s style guide feature makes it easy to create rules to keep your organization’s writing on brand. Style guides coach every team member on approved company language in real-time. Leaders can create up to 50 different style guides to fit the needs of different teams within the org.