melanie johnston writer

Freelance Business Writing: Basic Rules For Beginners

The world of today's business is driven almost entirely by information. Whether you happen to be in charge of a humongous multi-national corporation or a business with less than 10 employees, it is quite likely that a large portion of your day will be spent communicating with other people, usually in writing. While they may be utter geniuses at running the actual day-to-day operations, the majority of people who run businesses have very little actual experience with writing. This leaves the market wide open for those who are skilled in freelance business writing. If you would not exactly consider yourself an expert but would like to brush up on some skills, here are some basic rules for beginners to follow:

  • Less is more
  • Business people have no time to waste during their day so being concise is essential. Avoid long sentences filled with unnecessary words whenever possible. Basically, say what you need to say and sign your name to it.

  • Avoid jargon
  • Do you know what strategically synergies are? How about "blue-sky solutioneering"? Neither do most other people so lose the big words. Plus they sound stupid. Keep your language plain. Also remember to ditch the don't, and write do not instead. Contractions look unprofessional

  • Write it once, check it twice
  • Do your first proofread immediately after writing. It will need to be done again but wait for at least a few hours if possible. It is downright embarrassing to have written an excellent document, only to have it spoiled by a ridiculous typo. Putting it aside for a little while will give you a fresh eye when you go to proofread again.

  • Pay extra attention to gender, titles, and names
  • If a typo is embarrassing, then calling Mr. Avery "Mrs. Avery" throughout your entire writing is even worse. Don't guess if you don't know. Instead, find out from someone who has the correct information.

  • Being professional does not necessarily mean formal
  • If you happen to be writing job applications or legal documents, formal language is perfectly acceptable. Keeping it too formal in other situations is not necessary and can sometimes obscure what it is you are really trying to say. Just remember to leave out the gossip, off-color jokes, and personal comments.

  • The 5 W's
  • No matter what you are writing, you should also take care to answer Who? What? Where? When? and Why? Remember to include How?

  • Call to action
  • Documents simply full of information are generally not retained very well. Make the purpose of your communication clear, and end with a strong call to action.