Good business writing is simple, clear & concise. Its
virtually “transparent”. By not calling attention to itself,
good writing helps the reader focus on the idea you are
trying to communicate, rather than on the words that
1Keep in mind that reader
doesn’t have TIME …
Any business writing often travel to senior managers who have
tight schedules and much to read. Your memos, e-mails, etc.
must be clear on the first reading. The shorter it is, the better
chance it has of being read and considered
2Know where you are going
before you start …
Start with list of the important points you want to cover, then put
them into an outline. Write the Overview section of the memo
first. Write the important paragraphs before you get to details
and supplementary material.
3Don’t make spelling or
grammatical errors …
Readers who find bad grammar and misspelled words will
perceive the writer to be careless or uneducated. They will not
put much stock in the writer’s ideas.
4Be responsive to the needs of
Don’t be accused of missing the point. Before you write, find out
what the reader expects, wants and needs. If you must deviate
from these guidelines, let the reader know why early in the
5Be clear and specific …
Use simple, down to earth words. Avoid needless words and
wordy expressions. Avoid vague modifiers like “very” and
“slightly”. Simple words and expressions are clearer and easier to
understand. They show confidence and add power to your
6Try to use the present tense …
Be careful not to slip from the present to the past tense and back
again. Select one tense and stick to it. Use the present tense
when possible to add immediacy to your writing.
7Make your writing vigorous
and direct …
Use active sentences and avoid the passive voice. Be more
positive and definite by limiting the use of the word “not”. Avoid
a long string of modifiers.
8Use short sentences and
Send telegrams, not essays!
Vary length to avoid monotonous looking pages, but remember
that short sentences and paragraphs are inviting and more likely
to get read.
9Use personal pronouns…
Don’t hesitate to use “I”, “we” and “you” even in formal writing.
The institutional third person can be cold and sterile. Personal
pronouns make your writing warm, inviting and more natural.
10Avoid clichés and jargons…
Tired, hackneyed words and expressions make your writing
appear superficial. Find your own words and use them.
11Separate facts from
The reader should never be in doubt as to what is fact and what
is your opinion. Determine what you “know” and what you
“think” before you start writing. Be consistent about facts and
opinions throughout the memo, etc.
12Use numbers with restraint…
A paragraph filled with numbers is difficult to read, and difficult
to write too. Use a few numbers selectively to make your point.
Put the rest in tables and exhibits.
13Write the way you talk…
Avoid pompous, bureaucratic and legalistic words and
expressions. Use informal, personal, human language. Write to
others the way you would talk to them. Read your memo out
loud, if you wouldn’t talk that way, change it.
14Never be content with your
Revising and editing are critical to good writing. Putting some
time between writing and editing will help you be more
objective. Revise your memo with the intent to simplify, clarify
and trim excess words.
15Check your numbers one
Proofreading means seeking out and eliminating factual errors,
typos, misspellings, bad grammar, incorrect punctuation. But for
many readers, it is the numbers that really count. When number is
recognized as incorrect, your entire line of thinking is suspect.
Focus of the outline
Where are we today and why are we there?
What should we do about it?
Why is this a good thing to do?
1Think and assemble …
Review your strategy. Think about your reader. Know precisely
what you want your writing to accomplish. Write it down.
Assemble the information that will go into the memo. Put down
all facts, assumptions and supporting arguments on paper in any
order or judge them yet.
2Evaluate and rank …
Identify and separate “need to know” information. This is
background information and historical perspective that will go
into your Situation Analysis. Eliminate all but the minimum needed
for the reader to understand the situation.
Identify and separate the recommended course of action.
Develop your rational:
Eliminate or fix invalid arguments.
Tighten fuzzy arguments.
Combine similar arguments into stronger statements.
2Evaluate and rank …
Rank your arguments from most telling to least important.
Remember, the ranking should be based mainly on what is
important to the reader. Trim from the bottom up, leaving only as
many arguments as you need to sell your proposal.
Test your argument against the reader’s decision criteria. Look for
weaknesses. Be certain you haven’t missed anything the reader
would consider important.
A paragraph that tells the reader the purpose of the document. It
should include the main idea (the situation and recommendation)
and your opinion on the subject (the reason this is a sound
proposal). Overall cost and concurrences should be included if
The opening section provides top line information and serves as an
executive summary of the complete document that follows…
This section is the foundation on which the proposal is
built. It provides background information and
historical perspective that the reader must
understand. Include relevant facts and key
assumptions that influence your recommended
course of actions.
statement of the
action and how it
Focus on the
enough to give
the reader a clear
details the “how”
A numbered list of reasons that support the
recommendation in order of importance. Try to start
with the expected impact on the business and
include relevant precedent. Each reason should start
with a clear topic sentence followed by supporting
What is the reader expected to do? Tell the reader
exactly what will happen if he concurs. Be specific
about dates, people and financial commitments.
Present your plan
course of action.
Break your plan
into sections with
A brief description of other actions considered.
Discuss why each was rejected in favor of your
proposal. Only include serious alternatives.