Whether you’re writing a letter, memo, email, or report, you’ll want to be aware of these ten common business writing mistakes so you can avoid them and show off your clear writing talent.
- Using too many words. Create shorter messages by being concise. How do you do that? Avoid unnecessary words and don’t repeat yourself.
- Using jargon. Every business has its own jargon–words and phrases unique to that business. If any recipients of your business writing are outside your business realm, jargon can confuse and even frustrate them.
- Using trite expressions. Strive to write with freshness and originality so your readers will pay attention. Trite expressions give the impression you’re either behind the times or don’t show any creativity in your work.
- Overusing big words. Big words confuse more than they impress. When possible, stick to short, simple words to convey your message.
- Forgetting to explain abbreviations. The general rule is to explain the acronym or abbreviation the first time you use it so you don’t frustrate your reader when he or she can’t figure out what the abbreviation stands for.
- Being condescending to your reader. Condescending language talks down to your reader as if the reader is incapable of reaching a decision or conclusion. Avoid the appearance of superiority to your reader.
- Being negative. The best way to sell an idea is to be optimistic about it. Addressing benefits and advantages (even in a bad news communication) will help the reader receive the message better than gloom-and-doom writing.
- Being too self-centered. When I teach business writing at the college, I teach using the “you” view–emphasizing the reader’s point of view. Get your reader more involved by writing more to them than about self.
- Forgetting the editing. Before you hit “send” in an email or put a letter or report in the mail, be sure you’ve looked it over carefully for details such as date, correct addressee, punctuation, capitalization, one idea per paragraph, spelling, typos, etc. You risk sending the message that you are careless and irresponsible if you don’t.
- Overdoing your messages. It’s so easy to send an email, but is it necessary? Do you need a written record or will a phone call handle it? Before you invest the time in writing a business document, make sure it needs to be written at all.
Now that you have ten business writing mistakes to avoid, I hope you’ll consider them in both your day jobs and your writing careers.