The business letter examples and email tips here will help you write much more effectively at work.
To discover the most appropriate style and tone for business writing, see the article on plain English.
More on this a little later, but this style is rapidly replacing the formal business English that many of us learned at school and college. If your writing is still full of abbreviations, latin terms and long words that you would never say out loud, take note!
To find a professional secret that will help transform your writing, I recommend the section on active and passive sentences. This surprisingly little-known trick will instantly make your writing clearer, more punchy and direct.
Also in this section, some practical tips on how to write business email, and on some of the challenges this less formal medium presents to professionals.
While we’re on the subject of email, is your inbox a source of stress? Are messages pinging in faster than you can respond to them? Worry not – help is at hand! Read my article on how to manage email, before it manages you. Find that elusive ‘Inbox Zero’, and you might even free up a day a week to get some real work (or pleasure) done!
You’ll also find five essential tips on how not to write business email and avoid becoming known as the office twit. And yes, this applies at least as much to the CEO as to the office junior.
The new rules of business writing
First thing to remember is that the “rules” of business writing have changed in the last few years.
When I first started teaching people how to write business letters, my students had to learn page after page of Latin abbreviations. There were all these formal conventions you had to know, like never starting a sentence with ‘but’ or ‘and’.
And that made the business of writing seem very complicated!
Formal business English vs plain English
Back then, what we now call “formal business English” was used to impress the reader by making the writer appear superior in education and intelligence.
It was also useful for bamboozling people into buying or accepting things they didn’t really want. So long, pompous sentences and obscure words were the norm.
Today’s busy, internet-savvy consumers are not so easily impressed. They want short, clear communication, and modern business writing has changed to reflect that.
Nobody these days has the time or inclination to work through a dense, formally written letter. If they don’t understand your document on the first reading, chances are it will be filed in the bin.
The simple new guidelines for writing a business letter
This is good news for letter writers. Business English is no longer an arcane science you have to learn in university or secretarial college.
- Be clear about why you are writing – for example, are you accepting, informing, selling, or requesting something?
- Provide all the relevant information, but no more.
- Structure that information in a way that is easy for the reader to navigate.
- Write clearly and accurately, in plain English.
- Be aware of active and passive sentences , and prefer the active voice.
- Above all, put yourself in your reader’s shoes.
Follow these rules and I guarantee your business writing will be more effective. That’s not to say it’s easy. Writing with the reader in mind can be difficult at first, especially if you’re used to the old, formal styles of writing that tried to impress with long words and jargon.
If you have tips you’d like to share, or if you want help with a specific topic like writing a business case or a sales letter, post a comment using the form below, or write to me personally using the Contact Me form.