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Curriculum Center Browse Bibliography Build EPacket Pricing Structure Distribution Process Management Control in Nonprofit Organizations
Note on Effective Business Writing
Heineke, Janelle
Functional Area(s):
   General Management
   Organizational Behavior
   For Profit
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Pages: 7
Teaching Note: Not Available. 
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First Page and the Assignment Questions:
Business writing is very important for managers to master. Why? First, because you can know a lot, but if you can’t communicate effectively, what you know doesn’t matter. You will be judged as a thinker in light of how you write. Second, because most managers are bombarded with more written information than they can handle. If you write well, you increase the chances that what you write will actually be read and understood.

    This note discusses some of the basics of business writing and demonstrates their use.

Business Writing Fundamentals

    The goal of any business document is to convey information clearly and unambiguously to the reader. To achieve that goal, you should:

•    Be clear about the goal of your writing. Are you simply informing or are you persuading? Informing requires careful objectivity; persuading requires taking a position and supporting your arguments in order to convince your audience that your position is correct.

•    Know your audience. Are they technically or non-technically oriented? Do they know a lot about the topic you’re addressing, or just a little? Are they known to you or unknown? Does everyone see the issue the same way, or should you introduce it?
•    Organize your thoughts and your writing. Work from an outline (or at least a list!) of key points you want to make. It’s more efficient (and probably more effective) to build from an organized skeleton than to structure and organize a lot of randomly written thoughts.

•    Be concise! Use short, direct sentences. Avoid flowery adjectives and creative sentence structures. Make sure that “fancy” words will be understood by all—unless your goal is to condescend and/or obfuscate! Avoid jargon. Eliminate unnecessary, non-value-adding phrases, such as:

o    It is important to remember that . . .
o    It goes without saying that . . .
o    It should be noted that . . .
o    After careful evaluation of the data we have concluded that …

•    Use the active, rather than the passive, voice. For example, it’s more powerful to write, “The CSRs answered 300 calls,” than “Three hundred calls were answered by the CSRs.”

•    Use organizing structures, such as headings, bullets and numbered lists. They organize you and your reader and you are less likely to jumble your thoughts when you’ve provided a structure for them. Planned white space on a page makes it less daunting for the reader!