As we send our little cherubs back off to school after the longest summer holiday in history, the well-earned peace and head space presents us with the perfect opportunity to go back to the classroom too and revise the basics of effective business writing.

Whether you are getting to grips with doing it yourself or looking for some expert business writing help, here are my top tips to keep you on track for the new term!

  • An irresistible headline and opening paragraph.

Capture their attention with a short, sharp headline and first line.  Your customers, clients or stakeholders are very busy people with a million things competing for their attention every day.  The single most important line you will write in any communication is the first one. So be creative, use powerful words but few of them and promise the reader a reward for their time invested in your space.

  • Avoid jargon like the plague.

Yes, you want to sound like an expert in your field and you want to impress with the depth of your subject specific language but, trust me,  unless you’re preparing a presentation to the Board, jargon is the death of business communications.  Imagine your target audience was sitting next to you in a coffee shop and you had 5 minutes to get your point across. Don’t make any assumptions about your readers’ knowledge of the subject area. “That was far too simple and jargon-free” said no-one, ever.

  • Keep your audience front of mind with every sentence, image, video or link.  It’s vital that you do your customer research before investing the time and effort into a content marketing strategy, blog, social media feed or newsletter.  Who exactly are you appealing to?,  what ‘pain points’ are you claiming to solve and what communication channels are you likely to reach them with.
  • Include professionally researched facts, sources and a solid call to action at the end.  There is an extremely limited audience for self-indulgent ramblings.  You need to offer quality content in a timely manner and reference external sources where appropriate. Assume your readers have even less spare time than you and work hard to give them added value and take appropriate action, whether that’s a click through to book, buy, try or refer a friend.
  • Keep your tone of voice consistent.  Think in advance about how you want to come across.  If you’re writing an internal staff newsletter, remember that you want to sound inclusive and motivational.  If it’s customer facing content marketing, driven by a specific product or service don’t forget to stay on message and keep it relevant, remind the reader that they are not alone in seeking help for their need and you are their knight in shining armour who can make their life better.
  • SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation.  Seen as a dark art by some or a constantly shifting landscape by others but ultimately it all boils down to a simple concept.  There’s no point in writing award-winning business prose if no one is going to find it online or hang around long enough to know who you are.  Seek professional help if needed or access some of the multitude of free resources online but get up to speed on your keywords, backlinks and alt text.  It’s sink or swim out there folks!
  • Check, double check and check again.  The importance of conducting proper quality control before sharing or publishing your work can not be overstated.  This is your chance, as an individual or a business, to demonstrate that you offer the ‘gold standard’ in professionalism and attention to detail.  If you let typos and grammatical errors or sloppy formatting slip through, you have to think about what impression that will leave.  Even the most seasoned of writers can be guilty of the odd spelling blunder after a tough day at the office. I was going to include one in this, just to test you out but it was too painful for me to swallow.  So, if you spot one, please do let me no!

Allison Meldrum is a Freelance Writer and Communications Consultant with experience in Health, Well-being and Fitness sectors