Technical Writing AND Writing for Business
When running a small business, time is limited and
there are many tasks to be done. Most business owners understand the
importance of appearing professional and making a good first impression.
However, business owners don't always remember that anything they write
and give to potential clients is also part of their presentation. Thus, it
is essential to make your documents professional too.
The following tips apply to documents as simple as a quote or order and
as complex as a tender or annual report.
1. Spelling and Grammar
Word processing packages will spell check your work for you, and
everyone therefore expects your work to be perfect in this regard. Don't
forget, though, a spelling or typing error can be missed by spell check so
a manual check is a must.
For instance, spell check will accept "quiet short" instead
of "quite short" or "the boy" instead of "the
buoy," yet they mean very different things.
This sentence was in a recent newsletter: "Thank yuo all for your
patients during this time." It had nothing to do with medical
clients, by the way, but that's what it says... A little more effort would
have produced a more professional newsletter for clients.
Ensure that everything you write is accurate - if in doubt, leave it
out or qualify it.
For example, "we expect delivery to take two weeks but will inform
you of any delays" is better than "they will arrive in two
weeks" if you are unsure.
Take particular care to be accurate about your clients - don't call
them the wrong name or misspell a name, as that will be remembered more
than your words.
Also, be careful not to generalize - avoid words like all, every,
never, best and only as they can be easily proven wrong.
3. Repetition of meaning
There is no need to call a snow white or a snail slow, and to do so
makes the writer seem silly and ignorant.
Common examples of this are "at this moment in time",
"new innovations", "the one single reason", "an
added bonus" and "9am in the morning."
I saw a newsletter the other day where the editor wrote "by yours
truly … me" and it made her appear stupid and lowered the
credibility of all she went on to say.
This can also expand to obvious explanations, such as "had a smile
on her face" (where else would a smile be?) and "looked up at
the sky" (the sky is obviously up.)
4. Make sense
If the words and ideas don't move from point to point in such a way to
be clearly understood, a reader will have to work hard and become
discouraged. Aim for simple sentences and don't include irrelevant
A simple test for checking if your words make sense is to read them
aloud - your eyes may miss an error, but your ears won't.
5. Be appropriate
The use of form letters is acceptable, but make sure they are not
overly general or unsuitable for some clients.
I once received a form letter from my old school, which was obviously
written with school parents in mind as it discussed "helping your
child develop." It was irrelevant to me and prevented me donating as
Your choice of language is also important. Using technical terms and
difficult words may show you have a great vocabulary, but will stop many
people understanding what you've written. Likewise, using the latest slang
and street language is likely to upset an older conservative reader.
Each business and each document needs to be written to suit the
audience. However, it is never appropriate to use swearing and derogative
terms in business documents.
It is also not appropriate to say negative things about competitors -
apart from possible legal problems, it is unprofessional and unappealing.
Always, always proof read your writing before it becomes public. If
unsure, then get someone else to check it as well.
For important documents or ones to be used repetitively, consider
having a professional writer or editor help you. The benefits may astound
Author details: Tash Hughes is the owner and writer of Word Constructions.
All writing and editing projects are undertaken, from business letters to
reports to web site content; whatever your writing problems, visit www.wordconstructions.com
to see how we can solve them.