Tips for Making Business Writing Engaging

We all write things at work. Emails, letters, reports, blog posts and newsletters are just some examples. But, when we write we want people to read it, understand it and engage with it.

The Plain English Campaign is a great resource for tips and ideas for business writing. We use some of their guidance in our business writing skills training courses.

We all want to be able to write quickly while still being able to get the message and understanding across. We also want to engage the reader.

Here are our tips for making writing engaging. Here are our top 6 tips:

  1. Keep writing reader-focused
  2. Keep it short and simple (K.I.S.S.) and choose decisive words
  3. Say what you can and will do, not what you can’t and won’t do
  4. Limit ‘ing’ endings to verbs
  5. Use the active voice at least 80% of the time
  6. Avoid nominalizations.

Reader Focused – Don’t be afraid to use I, we and you where appropriate in letters, emails and reports to personalise writing.  Communication is to people, not departments. Phrase as much text as possible from your readers’ viewpoint. 

K.I.S.S – Look for simple single syllable verbs: ‘go’ not ‘proceed’, ‘send’ not ‘transmit’.  These are quicker to read and understand.  Use a positive, decisive version of the verb: ‘ask’ not ‘enquire’; ‘know’ rather than ‘feel’.

Say What You Will Do – Put a positive spin on your writing.  Positive words trigger positive responses, and positive sentences are shorter and more compelling to read. Use a positive, decisive version of verbs: e.g. use ‘ask’ not ‘enquire’; ‘think’ rather than ‘believe’; ‘know’ rather than ‘feel’.

Limit ‘ing’ Endings – Try not to use the present tense in the ‘–ing’ form. For example, rather than ‘We are committed to delivering’ use ‘We will Deliver’ or, rather than ‘One of our objectives is reducing costs’ use ‘To reduce costs is one of our objectives’.

Use the Active Voice – This required reordering of words to make them more active. Instead of ‘The TV was watched by Peter’ which is passive, use ‘Peter watched the TV’. It’s less stuffy and shorter to read and write. Another example – ‘Peter was crushed by the tree’ is passive. ‘The tree crushed Peter’ is active.

Avoid Nominalizations – A nominalisation is a result of turning a verb into a noun. As with the passive voice, nominalisations increase the length and complexity of the sentence. For example, ‘Users should ensure they are in compliance with the regulations’ includes a nominalization where ‘Users must comply with the regulations’ doesn’t.

Making writing more active, reader-focused and easier to read will go a long way to making your writing more engaging.

What to find out more about business writing? We deliver a Business Writing Skills training course as an open/scheduled training course and an in-house training course.