25 business writing tips you can’t live without

Concise, jargon-free messages are crucial to clear communication.

1. Take a tip from Elmore Leonard: Leave out the parts that people skip. 2. Use “people,” not “persons” (unless you really want to sound like you’re arresting said “persons”). 3. Avoid tracked changes. They make work hard to proof, and they’re terrible for working relationships. 4. Accept that your readers will scan. Make it easy for them with headers and paragraph returns. 5. It’s either “just as” or “equally”—never the horrible hybrid “equally as.” 6. The word “currently” is often superfluous, as here: “We are currently updating our website.” 7. There’s no need for the jargon “best of breed”—”best” is enough. 8. “Imply” and “infer” mean different things: If you imply something, I might infer it. 9. “Momentarily” means “for a moment,” not “in a moment.” 10. When researching a piece, pick up the phone. You’re guaranteed to get better results than by emailing. 11. Drop the overused adjective “key”—it invariably attracts other jargon (“stakeholders,” “learnings”). 12. If you must use PowerPoint, stick to four or five bullets to a slide (and four or five words to a bullet). 13. Save “takeaway” for that kebab you had on the way home last night. “Point” or “lesson” are better. 14. Remember to use an apostrophe in phrases like “one week’s notice” and “10 years’ experience.” 15. Taking minutes? Record important points, decisions and “to dos,” not “he said then she said” etc. 16. Numerals: Spell out “one” to “nine.” Use figures for 10 or more. 17. Write your headline first; it will help crystalize your main point. 18. Need feedback on your writing? The more senior they are, the less they’ll rewrite for the sake of it. 19. “Now” is more powerful than wordy alternatives like “at this moment in time.” 20. Don’t call attention to the act of writing. “I hereby inform you of our new address” = “We’re moving.” 21. Far better to start a sentence with “and” than to ever use the word “additionally.” 22. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. 23. For good working relationships, get or give feedback on writing by phone or in person, not email. 24. Proofreading? Check headers, footers, captions, etc., both separately and as part of the whole. 25. Watch your tone. Never say something in an email in a way you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face. Clare Lynch is chief business writer and trainer at Doris and Bertie , a U.K. communications agency that helps businesspeople ditch corporate-speak and talk like human beings. Follow her on Twitter @goodcopybadcopy .


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