1. Complete. It’s all too easy to forget that your reader doesn’t have the same information as you. A complete message should include all pertinent information – the when, where, why, who and how. You should also include a clear explanation of any action you want your reader to take.
2. Concise. Check your writing carefully for redundant words, such as “postpone until later”. A concise message shows the reader that you value their time.
3. Clear. Your writing should be clear enough to leave no room for doubt or ambiguity as to what you are trying to say and what action is required.
4. Conversational. There’s no need to write as if you were writing a legal letter. Write as if you were talking face to face in a friendly but professional tone. Keep your tone warm and remember you are talking to a human being.
5. Correct. You only get one chance to make a first impression. That adage is important when it comes to business writing – if your writing is incorrect, your first impression will be negative. Pay particular attention to: Details such as name and title, correctness in spelling and grammar, correct information and a reader friendly format.
6. Coherent. Your reader needs to understand your message immediately. As you set down your thoughts and ideas, do so in a logical manner and help your reader to follow along by linking your ideas together sensibly.
7. Credible. Good business writing relies on facts, not opinions. Once lost credibility is hard to repair, so always check your facts and sources. When referencing facts, pay attention to how the data was collected and whether the results were unbiased. Make sure your information is up to date.
8. Concrete. Concrete writing means writing that steers clear of vague words and phrases in favor of specifics. For example, “some”, “many”, “a few”, “as soon as possible”. These should be replaced with concrete numbers, dates and timescales.
9. Courteous. Always put your reader first. Courteous writing includes striving for a positive tone by avoiding commanding phrases such as “you must” and negative phrases such as “you failed”. There is no need to strive for false positivity, but taking care over word choice shows consideration for your reader.
10. Considerate. Considerate writing means your document is easy to read and scan. You can do this by splitting information into paragraphs with one idea per paragraph, by using bullets and lists for ease of scanning, by using stylistic choices such as bold and italic to emphasize your point, and by using internal headings to guide your reader through the document.
When it comes to business writing, practice really does make perfect. The best business writing process is one that starts with careful planning and ends with careful revision.