Another 25 quick business writing tips

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1. Take a tip from Elmore Leonard: leave out the parts that people skip.

2. Use “people”, not “persons” (unless you really do 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 redundant, 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 4 or 5 bullets a slide (and 4 or 5 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 “ten 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 “ten”. Use figures for “11” or more.

17. Write your headline first – it will help crystallise 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 their face.

See also:

More super-quick tips for better business writing

Another 25 super-speedy tips for better business writing

25 super-quick tips for better business writing


5 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Leon says:

    Excellent advice, as ever.

    Out of interest, why spell out 1–10?

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Not sure if it’s aesthetics or convention, but it just looks odd otherwise.

    Different style guides have the cut-off at different points – 10, 11, 12. The most important thing is to be consistent.

  3. Bernie Nyman says:

    Great stuff. I do hope your readers take this on board.

  4. Doug says:

    Re #7: I’ve generally seen the phrase “best of breed” being used to mean a composite system made of bits obtained from different sources, where each bit is implicitly claimed to be the best of its kind. A made-up example: a home entertainment system comprising a Sony TV, a Panasonic DVR, a Yamaha home theater receiver, and Harmon-Kardon speakers.

  5. Hugh says:

    I agree with “takeaway”. It’s the literary equivalent of the kebab: cheap, tasteless and undesireable.

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