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10 Helpful Skills to Level-Up Your Business Writing

Professionals communicate with each other through forms of writing such as emails, reports and proposals. The writing style you use in these materials differs from personal writing and can affect the response you get from your colleagues, clients or audience. Good business writing skills can help you deliver information clearly and effectively.

Business writing is a form of writing used to communicate with coworkers, managers, stakeholders or clients. You use business writing to share information and ideas, deliver news or explain new processes. The four main types of business writing include:

1. Instructional

This writing form gives readers the information they need to follow a new process at work. It might include steps for completing a task or solving a problem. You might use instructional business writing in memos, user manuals and product or design specifications.

2. Informational

This type of writing provides readers with information they can refer to and use to make decisions at their organization. You might use informational business writing in reports, financial statements and meeting minutes.

3. Persuasive

Professionals use persuasive writing to get the reader to make a particular decision, such as to buy a product or service. You might use this writing style in project proposals to clients, sales pitches or emails

4. Transactional

Employees use this type of writing in their daily business communications to share information or get a specific reaction from coworkers or clients. You might use transactional business writing in professional emails, letters, direct messages and invoices.

Common examples of business writing

Business letters

A business letter serves as an example of transactional business writing. It refers to a formal, printed document an individual sends to a colleague, supervisor or professional associate. Typically, individuals use this type of business writing when conducting employment- or business-related communications.

For example, an employee may write a resignation letter to convey their decision to leave a job. Or a sales professional may send sales letters to their customers to introduce a new product and describe its features. There are several types of business letters, including:

Though the content varies, business letters tend to follow a defined format. It must include the contact information of both the sender and recipient, a formal salutation, a closing statement and the sender’s signature. The body of the letter may be comprised of one or several paragraphs conveying the intended message. Due to its formal nature and the time it can take to send one, this type of business writing is not suitable for sending messages quickly.


An email is another example of transactional business writing. It likely represents the type of business writing that professionals use most regularly. Using email, the sender can convey their message to a recipient almost instantly via the internet.

Typically, an individual sends an email to colleagues or clients to provide information or ask them to take action on something. For example, a supervisor may send an email to one of their employees asking them to gather research on a new product. Or a team working on a project may send an email with details about their progress to the client.

Like a business letter, business emails often include a salutation, closing statement and the sender’s contact information. While emails tend to be a less formal communication method, they must still follow appropriate language and grammar to demonstrate professionalism in the workplace.

Typically, an email is relatively brief and conveys a single message or purpose because recipients may not spend too much time reading emails. One essential element of an email is its subject line, which can provide context on what the reader can expect to find in its message.


A business memo represents an example of instructional business writing. It is a brief, less formal method of communicating information within an organization. Typically, companies use memos for mass communications rather than personal messages. For example, the human resources department may send a memo regarding changes to company procedures or policies to employees. Or a manager could send one to internal stakeholders informing them of the launch of a new product.

A memo is typically a brief message focused on one purpose, so it should not take long to read. While less formal than a report or business letter, it still needs to maintain language appropriate for the workplace. Like other business writing types, memos can include an introduction, body paragraph, conclusion and the sender’s contact information. Memos often use a header to inform recipients of the message’s purpose and may incorporate other details, such as the date.


Some employees receive manuals that provide instructions they can follow to perform their job or complete specific tasks. Depending on the organization’s size, the business owner or a human resources department may help draft this document. They may also consult a lawyer to help draft language around any legal terms and conditions.

A handbook instructs employees, so it must use straightforward and concise language to ensure their understanding. It also incorporates important information that employees need to know to perform their job or follow company standards. For example, a handbook describes companies’ policies regarding compensation, dress code, time-off and schedules. It may also provide information about a company, such as its mission, values, history and employment terms. Employees need all this information in an easy-to-understand manner to help empower them at work.

Business reports

A business report represents an example of informational business writing. This type of document outlines important information about the business or a specific project. Typically, its purpose is to provide data, research and other information to help managers, executives or other stakeholders make business-related decisions. Businesses use various types of reports, such as:

Writing a business report requires objectivity rather than inserting one’s personal opinions on the subject. Readers must rely on the facts, research and data contained within it to make a decision. However, reports that incorporate recommendation sections allow for some opinions when the author suggests possible solutions to problems. The format may vary, but business reports typically include the following elements:

By the Same Author

How to Tell a Great Story

Cut the fat
Don’t “use three words when one would do,” says Blackburn. Read your writing through critical eyes, and make sure that each word works toward your larger point. Cut every unnecessary word or sentence. There’s no need to say “general consensus of opinion,” for instance, when “consensus” will do. “The minute readers feel that a piece of writing is verbose they start tuning out,” says Garner. He suggests deleting prepositions (point of view becomes viewpoint); replacing –ion words with action verbs (provided protection to becomes protected); using contractions (don’t instead of do not and we’re instead of we are); and swapping is, are, was and were with stronger verbs (indicates rather than is indicative of).

Avoid jargon and $10 words
Business writing is full of industry-specific buzzwords and acronyms. And while these terms are sometimes unavoidable and can occasionally be helpful as shorthand, they often indicate lazy or cluttered thinking. Throw in too many, and your reader will assume you are on autopilot — or worse, not understand what you’re saying. “Jargon doesn’t add any value,” says Blackburn, but “clarity and conciseness never go out of style.” Garner suggests creating a “buzzword blacklist” of words to avoid, including terms like “actionable,” “core competency,” “impactful,” and “incentivize.” You should also avoid using grandiose language. Writers often mistakenly believe using a big word when a simple one will do is a sign of intelligence. It’s not.

Read what you write
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Is your point clear and well structured? Are the sentences straightforward and concise? Blackburn suggests reading passages out loud. “That’s where those flaws reveal themselves: the gaps in your arguments, the clunky sentence, the section that’s two paragraphs too long,” she says. And don’t be afraid to ask a colleague or friend — or better yet, several colleagues and friends — to edit your work. Welcome their feedback; don’t resent it. “Editing is an act of friendship,” says Garner. “It is not an act of aggression.”

Practice every day
“Writing is a skill,” says Blackburn, “and skills improve with practice.” Garner suggests reading well-written material every day, and being attentive to word choice, sentence structure, and flow. “Start paying attention to the style of The Wall Street Journal,” he says. Invest in a guide to style and grammar for reference — Garner recommends Fowler’s Modern English Usage. Most importantly, build time into your schedule for editing and revising. “Writing and reworking your own writing is where the change happens, and it’s not quick,” says Blackburn. “The time is well spent because good writers distinguish themselves on the job.”

Case study #1: Don’t be afraid to share
When David McCombie began working as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, he immediately realized that the writing style he’d honed at Harvard Law School wasn’t well suited for executive-level communications. “It was the structure of my arguments,” David says. “I was getting feedback that I needed to get to the point more quickly.”

With legal or academic writing, “you’re going to generally start with building up the case, and put the main point all the way at the end,” he says. “But in business communications, it’s best to start with your conclusion first.”

To make his writing more direct and effective, David asked several senior colleagues for all of their past presentations and reports so that he could mimic key elements of their format and style. He also copied trusted colleagues who were particularly skilled communicators on important emails and asked for their feedback.

David has carried these practices to the private equity firm he founded in Miami, the McCombie Group. “I send anything that’s important to my partner and he reads it over,” David says, adding that he knows better than to take the edits personally. “We talk about whether there is a better way to convey an idea, how we can be more succinct.”

Improving his writing has had a direct effect on David’s ability to become an influential voice in his field. He’s currently writing a book on his private equity firm’s niche market, The Family Office Practitioner’s Guide to Direct Investments.

“Even if I knew good business writing from the get-go, I think continually improving your writing and taking it to the next level is absolutely key to success,” David says. “The more you do it, the easier it becomes.”

Case study #2: Study good writing
Tim Glowa had already built a successful career as a strategic marketing consultant when he decided to set his ambitions a little higher. “I wanted to be perceived as a thought leader,” Tim says, “and to do that, I needed to have a point of view and I needed to put that point of view out in public.”



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