The need for written communication in business has grown exponentially in recent years. From emails to blogs and social media posts, as well as the more standard client updates, most of us are probably spending more time writing than we ever expected.

For some people, writing is something they enjoy and are naturally good at. For others, it can be a chore and a cause of anxiety and uncertainty. Getting those thoughts down in black and white in a way that is clear and concise may seem daunting.

But there’s no getting away from the necessity of written communications, so it’s worthwhile taking steps to improve your ability. Being able to communicate effectively is central to building strong and trusted relationships with clients and staff, as well as other stakeholders.

Just do it

Don’t know where to start? It can be overwhelming to stare at a blank screen and start typing. Sometimes the trick is to just start. Don’t worry if the words aren’t quite right to begin with. Simply getting the ideas down is a good start and gives you something to work with. Once you’ve written a sentence or two, it’s often the case that the words just begin to flow.

Always edit

There is no such thing as a piece of writing that doesn’t need editing. Always read back what you have written, as critically as you can, whether it’s an email, an article or a post. Are there repetitions? Are there too many words used where one will do? Is the sentence structure convoluted and difficult to follow? Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are highly distracting to most readers – and make you look unprofessional – so proof-reading is also important.

If possible, get someone else to read your writing before finalising it – an external perspective can be invaluable. Another option is to read it out loud to yourself. This often highlights awkward phrasing and the like. It can also be beneficial to put the writing to one side and come back to it later – ideally the next day. This allows a fresh view and often reveals improvements to be made.

Avoid buzzword bingo

Nothing turns people off more than a jumble of buzzwords that have become meaningless through overuse. Such words often stymie effective communication rather than facilitate it. Some good examples are “unique”, “innovative”, “solution”, and “delighted”. If you’ve used any of these words in your writing, ask yourself whether they can really be justified. Use the thesaurus to look at other options that will mean something to your audience.

Remember who the audience is

Writing for a client? Remind yourself what their level of knowledge and understanding is. Are you using acronyms that they won’t easily recognise? Do they really need to know the full name of an ASIC regulation or just to feel confident that you know it? Will they understand the background to what you are talking about or do they need more context?

On the other hand, if you are writing for your colleagues, a more technical style may be more appropriate, and less background required.

Less is often more