How to write a business document.
Make the write impression
Quite often, the first impression people get of your business has nothing to do with logos, face-to-face contact or advertising. ROSEMARY OSBORNE shares tips on how to create and present documents that elevate the perception and professionalism of your business.
The presentation of accurate, clear and concise business documentation can be a risk management strategy for your business. Perfect documentation is a communicationprocess that can define the quality and standard of your business product.
If you have a grammar phobia, it is time to build a bridge. There is evidence that spelling mistakes, punctuation and grammar errors deter potential business clients and create inefficiencies and conflict. Make sure your document message is clear and succinct and says exactly what you want it to say. It is difficult to identify your own written errors without a few basic strategies.
Be organised in your writing process. Consider the structure of the information to enhance the flow of ideas and concepts. Do a flow chart if necessary and maybe use dot points or subheadings. State your main message in the opening paragraph and a summary of the main concepts. Don’t bury key or uncomfortable information within the text. Bring everything together in the last paragraph with a strong clarification of proposed actions.
Be concise and aware of repetition of ideas and be prepared to delete unnecessary words and phrases.
Use a warm and friendly tone. Write in simple words avoiding all formal expressions, jargon and industry talk. Use active voice: ‘the project is due Friday’ rather than “the project should be completed and is required in this office by Friday’.
Format your document so readers can scan your information and identify key messages. Use white space to create calmness in your document.
Avoid blocks of bold or italics and use a business font like Arial, Calibri or Veranda. Use one font throughout your document.
Don’t rely on spell check and grammar check alone. They get it wrong sometimes and if you do use spell check, make sure it is the Australian version. A dictionary is essential and if your grammar is poor, there are Australian Business Style Manuals available.
Some useful proofreading tips:
Put some distance between yourself and the document – a minimum of 24 hours or longer if possible. Print the document and read it aloud or get someone to read it to you – at least four times – looking for distinct things on each reading.
Meaning and consistency. Avoid long and complex sentences as they often lose meaning. Check that you are consistent with your terminology and logic.
Grammar. Could you say it differently and with fewer words? Are the verb tenses correct? Remember the basic rules of grammar and punctuation.
Spelling. Put a piece of paper under each line and commence the check from the end of the document. We all have words that we consistently misspell.
Presentation. Review your typefaces and formatting. Remove clutter and check your hyperlinks are active, all diagrams labelled and any references included.
Your documentation is part of your quality business processes. Although it takes time, it represents the standard of your business so it is
time well spent.
Make the write impression
A business document.
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