Ana Clark – Advertising & Marketing Specialist – February 13th, 2021
Creative writing and business writing are not one in the same. Business writing has a set of rules and expectations in and of itself. Getting to the point, below I share with you the ten C’s of quality business writing backed up with credible sources (see citations).
The 10 C’s
- Complete: Provide enough information so that the reader does not have questions. Remember that the reader may not have the same data as you do. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How provide an excellent foundation to tighten up business writing.
- Concise: Get to the point with the fewest words possible. Avoid redundant and unnecessary content. Do not waste the reader’s time.
- Clear: The message needs to make sense to the reader, no interpretation required. What is the point of the document? What action is expected of the reader? Avoid jargon and organize the information in an easy-to-follow pattern. Utilize, “First, Second, Last” to be clear.
- Concrete: Include specifics, no vague words. “These [vague words] are called hedges: about, kind of, sort of, -ish (suffix), stuff, things:” (Vague expressions – English Grammar Today – Cambridge Dictionary). Concrete words give exact information and removes doubt or the need to interpret the meaning. Concrete language has an obvious meaning.
- Conversational: Use a conversational style of writing that is designed for a human being, not a robot. Do not use stiff mechanical or legal terms, but don’t be too informal. Ask yourself, “would I speak this way if I were talking face to face with someone?”
- Courteous: Use positive tones and from the reader’s viewpoint. Positive words will produce a positive tone. Studies prove that negative words instantly yield hormones that cause stress and anxiety- even if that is not your intent. (Do words hurt? Brain activation during the processing of pain-related words – ScienceDirect). “Focus on what is or can be rather than what isn’t or can’t be” says Judy Steiner-Williams, senior lecturer at Kelley Business School. Remember, you are writing for the reader and their viewpoint and benefits. Put yourself in the reader position, what does the reader get?
- Correct: Does the message look professional and polished? Name spelling, mechanics, information, and format are important. Always double and triple check name spelling and gender correctness. Proofread to ensure that mechanics are correct and do not rely on spell and grammar checkers. Common mechanical mistakes are “you/your/you’re”, “then/than” and “it is/it’s/its”. Make sure the information provided is correct and that you are not misinforming the reader. Once you lose your readers trust it will be near to impossible to regain it and “I made a mistake” will not likely save your reputation. Last, ensure that the format you use is suited to the reader and the medium; be it letter, newspaper, magazine, email, or blog.
- Coherent: Do all the parts tie together smoothly and make sense? Use transitional words and phrases to connect your ideas. For example: first/second/third, as well as, but, instead, in the event that, or, for example, are great transitional word choices. See Transition Words & Phrases (smart-words.org) for a comprehensive guide to aid your professional business writing. Be aware that the entire message should fit together and make sense to the reader.
- Considerate: Be inviting and easy to follow. Your reader is busy so make sure that the document is easy to read, emphasizes the main purpose, and follows paragraph protocol. Short paragraphs, clear titles and subtitles, number lists and bullets will make your document easy and pleasant to read. Watch this short video to nail down what a proper paragraph structure looks like, https://www.smrtenglish.com/smrt/cafe?s=paragraph
- Credible: Once your credibility is harmed you cannot recover your reader’s trust. Implement reliable facts, not opinions, with dependable sources provided in your business writing. Primary sources; questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, and experiments, and secondary sources; books, articles, reports, and academic databases, can be credible stock. Be sure to analyze the credibility of your sources and the date relevancy before trusting them.
And there you have it, the Ten (10) C’s of Business Writing. This is only the tip of your learning iceberg; an introduction. I encourage you to keep learning and practicing your business writing. Below I have listed my credible sources for this article, in it you will find a wonderful LinkedIn Learning course that I highly recommend you watch, learn, and take the provided academic quizzes.
Steiner-Williams, J. (2014, March 2). Business Writing Principles. LinkedIn Learning. https://www.linkedin.com/learning/business-writing-principles?u=56969921
Transition Words & Phrases. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://www.smart-words.org/linking-words/transition-words.html
Roberts, M. (2013, July 8). Paragraph Structure (Part 1). Smrt English. https://www.smrtenglish.com/smrt/cafe?s=paragraph
Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Vague Expressions. Retrieved February 13, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/vague-expressions
Elsevier, B. V. (2008, December 19). Do words hurt? Brain activation during the processing of pain-related words. Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0304395909004564