Instantly Improve Your Writing with 9 Easy Edits
With the ease of email and digital communications in the age of tech, you might assume that business writing isn’t the essential skill it once was. But make no mistake—good writing still matters in business. Communicating with customers, vendors and other stakeholders relies on effective, compelling expression. The messaging on your website and social media platforms can make or break the impression your brand makes. And even interoffice communication calls for clear, thorough writing with an eye on what’s appropriate in the professional environment.
Most of us are required to write within the daily tasks of our jobs. Whether you’re placing a special order, sending an email thank you note, compiling project status reports, or crafting product packaging inserts, your writing will be more successful if you polish your work with these easy editing tricks.
1. Shorter sentences.
Here is a prime example of a sentence with some really unneeded sentence lengtheners sprinkled throughout it, and ways you can consider for cutting it back in order to make the sentence shorter. NEW: This sentence has unneeded lengtheners throughout. Here’s how to make it shorter.
2. Shorter paragraphs.
First, shorten the sentences as shown above. Then add breaks after two to four sentences. If you’re writing a longer “list” (see the third paragraph of this article), one or two sentences is best for your paragraph length.
3. Cut redundancies.
This kind of editing is also shown above in “Shorter sentences.” Classic redundancies include: some, really, naturally, obviously, in order to, and as a matter of fact. Also, if you have already made a point, cut any sentence used to underscore it.
This is really important. << Like so.
4. Fewer adjectives.
Adjectives are the descriptive words that tell us how something looks, sounds, feels, etc. Sometimes, a little “color” helps bring life to your writing. But beware too many descriptors. It’s
super easy to go way overboard on unnecessary, fluffy adjectives. << Like so.
5. Know, feel, do.
The three components of business writing are information, inspiration and action. Focus your writing on what you want the reader to:
- Know (that there’s a delay in the order or how to contact you)
- Feel (grateful for your business or confident that you understand)
- Do (call you next week or visit the new online store for special deals)
6. Bullet points.
See above. This formatting not only makes the content pop, it makes it easier to read, especially in long form documents and web pages.
7. More verbs.
One of the best tips we have for business writers is to focus on what is actionable. That’s the “Do” portion of number 5 above. Look for ways to turn descriptions into actions, and put them first. For me, that resulted in the title of this article being revised from “9 Easy Edits That Instantly Improve Your Writing” to the current, “Instantly Improve Your Writing with 9 Easy Edits.”
8. Avoid the third person.
The “person” refers to the way you address the reader and how you categorize the voice of the writer. In this sentence, I’m using “first person singular”—I’m talking to you about myself. In business writing, we often like first person plural which sounds like the voice of the team speaking to our customers or colleagues. You might also choose the second person, like this sentence, when you want your writing to guide the reader. Avoid the third person, which is referring to yourself or your business as someone else. One has difficulty relating to the third person, and as such, Faith Watson does not recommend it. << See? No.
9. Natural language.
The best business writing doesn’t sound archaic (that’s academic writing), extra fancy (that’s legal writing), or cheesy (that’s an infomercial script). Sweep through your writing for phrases like “attached you will find” (I use “I’ve attached”), heretofore (I like “previously”), and “HURRY THIS OFFER EXPIRES SOON!” (Please don’t shout).
Use this list to review your writing this week—chances are you’ll improve it right away with these easy edits. For more detailed instruction about how to structure business writing for various audiences, situations and media, check out the GoSkills course, Writing Effective Business Communications. It features 23 concise modules designed for beginners. You can even try out a few lessons for free before you sign up—we’d love to have you as a student!
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