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Tools to Help Improve Your Business Writing

You might have heard the curious case of the missing Oxford comma and the $10 million fine.

(The Oxford comma is the one used in the final item in a list just before the “and” before the last item. It’s the comma following the “four” in the following list: one, two, three, four, and five.)

Lack of clarity in written communication will rarely cause such expensive losses for your business. However, across all businesses in the US, billions of dollars are wasted due to insufficient writing skills according to Joann Killeen in the, LA Business Journal.

A study mentioned by Harvard Business Review found that “Professionals with fewer grammar errors in their LinkedIn profiles achieved higher positions. Those who failed to progress to a director-level position within the first ten years of their careers made 2.5 times as many grammar mistakes as their director-level colleagues.”

So what can you do to improve your writing, or your team’s writing?

First, there are three laws for effective business writing: keep it simple, succinct, and specific.

Simple language – no fancy words or jargon.

– Succinct – succinct writing is more persuasive but usually takes several drafts to develop. As Mark Twin said, “‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

– Specific – define the reason you’re writing something. What action do you want to happen because of your written communication? Identify that goal to yourself and your reader.

Next, try smart new writing tools that go beyond grammar and spell checking. These include Grammarly (free and paid plans, though paid is much more useful), Writefull, and Ginger.

You can also try Analyzemywriting.com and Prowritingaid.com.

Hemmingway Editor is unique as it strengthens copy by highlighting lengthy, complex sentences and common errors.

Nothing beats a human editor for improving copy. There are many gifted freelance editors for hire in Vermont. For smaller projects, you can also try an on-demand service like Typewriter.plus or Textmaster.com.

Harvard Business Reviews publishes an excellent guide to better business writing. Meanwhile, Inc Magazine recommends “8 Must-Read Books That Will Improve Your Business Writing Skills.” It doesn’t include Fowler’s Modern English Usage, one of the most highly recommended (and grumpy) guides to the language.

“Writing is the primary basis upon which your work, your learning, and your intellect will be judged.” – Marquette University

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