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Better Business Writing: An Introduction

The Key Principles of Effective Business Writing

In this article, I will discuss three things:

  1. What is business writing, and why does it matter?

  2. What are the fundamental principles of good business writing?

  3. A review of some best and worst-case examples


In organisations and businesses, the pen wields power. Effective business writing underpins successful communication, shaping how ideas unfold and decisions take root. Managers, as architects of strategy and leaders of teams, must specialise in this essential craft. Their

written words are not merely messages but the building blocks of success.

What is Business Writing, and Why Does it Matter?

 A good working definition of Business writing is communicating ideas, information, and actions in a corporate context. It encompasses emails, letters, manuals, reports, proposals, and memos. These are all designed to inform, persuade, or instruct stakeholders within and outside the organisation.

The importance of good writing skills cannot be overstated. It is a career skill. It is the hallmark of strong leadership. And at the core of effective management. It stands at the crossroads of clarity and confusion. Clear, concise, and purpose-driven writing propels business objectives, fosters effective communication, and reflects professional credibility. It breaks barriers, builds bridges, and acts as the lifeblood of good corporate governance.

Careful consideration of the reader's needs and expectations is the basis of good business writing. Essential qualities are:

·      Clear organisation

·      Clear expression

·      Relevant content

·      Appropriate style


Applying the Fundamental Principles of Good Business Writing.

To master business writing, embrace these cornerstones:

  1. Clarity: Aim for precision and simplicity. Avoid any jargon unless your audience is familiar with it. Like a beacon, clarity guides the reader through your thoughts with ease.

  2. Conciseness: Time is a valued currency in the workplace and business. Write succinctly, cutting out superfluous words. Always, even in technical and complex documents. Each sentence should carry its weight.

  3. Purpose: Every piece should have a clear objective. Are you informing, persuading, or requesting action? Purpose sharpens your message like a laser, targeting the reader’s understanding.

  4. Tone: Adapt your tone to your audience and context. A chameleon changes colour to suit its environment, and your writing should match the corporate setting.

  5. Structure: Organise your content logically. Signpost with headings, bullet points, and paragraphs. A well-structured document is like a well-planned journey—efficiently getting the reader to their destination.

  6. Style: Reflect your corporate identity. Like a tailored suit, your writing style should fit your company's culture and the message's formality.


  • Clear and Concise: An email to a team member might read, “Please submit the monthly sales report by Thursday noon,” rather than a lengthy and unclear message.

  • Purposeful: A proposal should begin with an executive summary, briefly outlining the aim and benefits.

  • Appropriate Tone and Structure: A formal report should maintain a professional tone, use passive voice sparingly, and present information in a structured manner with transparent sections.

Good Business Writing is a Skill

Many business writers often need to clarify their thoughts before starting to write. Then, make it worse by failing to edit and proofread correctly. Answer before you begin writing:

1.       What ACTION do you, the writer, want?

2.       What REACTION should the reader have?



Review of Best and Worst-Case Examples

Best-Case Example: A well-crafted business plan that articulates the business idea, market analysis, and financial projections. It uses headings, graphs, and tables for easy navigation and presents complex information in a digestible format.

Please pay invoices within 14 days to avoid your account being put on hold.

Worst-case example: A rambling email full of technical jargon, lengthy paragraphs, and no clear action points leaves the reader needing clarification and unsure of the main message or required action.

Customers are advised that accounts are rendered monthly and that settlement within 14 days is stipulated by the terms under which business is conducted.

Note: Passive constructions and inflated language (‘advised that’ / ‘rendered’).

In Summary

Effective business writing is not about grandiose words or complex sentences; it's the art of simplifying the complex. It's about getting to the point with grace and efficiency. By adhering to clarity, conciseness, purpose, tone, structure, and style, managers can ensure that their writing advances their objectives and conveys their message with the intended impact.

Remember the power of the written word in business. It is a tool for progress, a medium for ideas, and reflects your professional ethos. Write with intent, clarity, and precision; your words will be read, remembered, and acted upon.


Taken from the one-day training course: “Better Business Writing” by Graham Phelps.

And for one-to-one coaching:

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