Quality Consulting

Improve Your Business Writing

  1. Write with care
    • Work slowly and carefully to reduce opportunity for errors.
    • Avoid distractions that will impair concentration.
    • Work only when alert, in a quiet environment.
    • Allow yourself enough time to compose and edit your document, especially if you are on a deadline
  2. Begin with a rough draft
    • Outline your initial ideas in point form before you begin.
    • Decide whether your message is best delivered in a letter, memo, proposal or report.
    • Create a rough draft.
    • Review the draft and rearrange paragraphs as needed.
    • Insert any missed ideas.
    • Refine your structure and wording to achieve clarity and maximize impact.
  3. Organize your material for impact
    • Determine the essence of the document's intended meaning.
    • Capture the reader's attention early by placing important ideas up front.
    • Maintain readers' interest by referring back to the central theme throughout.
    • Ensure that each paragraph has an introductory statement, supporting points and a conclusion.
    • Consider the use of graphs, graphics or charts to add interest and visually support your points.
    • Conclude with a call to action, or with a set of next steps to be accomplished and by whom.
  4. Use words economically
    • Use a variety of different words for interest and to avoid repetition.
    • Leave out jargon that may be unfamiliar to readers.
    • Use words that come easily and naturally to you.
    • Avoid the temptation to add extra words in an effort to sound articulate.
    • Employ words effectively but sparingly for better comprehension.
    • Look for opportunities to omit unnecessary words.
    • Remember that busy professionals rarely have time to read excessively long documents.
  5. Check your grammar
    • Incorrect grammar can detract from the professionalism and credibility of your document.
    • Refer to a good stylebook for a complete discussion of proper punctuation and grammar.
    • Ask at bookstores or libraries for recommended stylebooks to suit your needs.
  6. Choose the right type styles
    • Employ type styles properly to reinforce communication and improve legibility.
    • Choose different type styles only to distinguish between different elements of your document - body text, headlines, captions, titles, subheads, etc.
    • Exercise restraint in the number of different typefaces you use in a single document.
    • If your organization has standard typefaces for documents, be sure to use these.
  7. Review content for accuracy
    • Make sure all information you have provided is accurate and up to date.
    • Verify any numerical references, including math in graphs or tables.
    • Check that individuals mentioned by last name were previously introduced.
    • If the text describes a stepped process, make sure that all steps are listed.
    • Ensure that you are not violating any copyright laws when citing outside sources.
  8. Proofread!
    • Do not rely solely on your computer's spell-check or grammar-check functions to catch errors.
    • Take the time to carefully reread your document for misplaced words or incorrect usage.
    • Avoid editing or proofreading on a computer monitor.
    • Work from "hard copy" printouts for maximum precision.
    • Have someone else read the document for you to catch any errors you may have missed.
  9. Select the right presentation
    • Ensure all letters are properly formatted to fit letterhead.
    • Staple or clip multiple-paged documents together once in the upper left corner.
    • If you must photocopy documents, ensure that your machine yields high quality, legible copies.
    • Consider outsourcing high-volumes of multiple-paged documents to a copy store.
    • Place large documents in binders or have them spiral bound.
  10. Deliver the finished product
    • Determine whether the document should be emailed, mailed, sent by courier or distributed through an internal mail system.
    • Allow enough time for your audience to receive, read and respond to time-sensitive documents.

If your document is designed to accompany an oral presentation, ensure there are enough copies of for everyone attending.