What no one ever tells you about writing business documents: three hidden truths

In The Little Black Book of Business Writing, Mark Tredinnick and Geoff Whyte set out two truths of business writing.

The first may come as a surprise. You’ll almost certainly agree with the second. And, to add to the mix, the professional copywriters at Proof Communications believe there’s a third hidden truth, which you’ll have experienced many times.

  • First up, there is no one on Earth who wants to spend longer than they have to reading your email, letter, tender or brochure.
  • Secondly, no one on Earth wants to spend longer than they have to writing an email, letter, tender or brochure.
  • And thirdly, when you’re writing a business document, it always takes longer than you think it will.

That’s why when you’re writing a business document, it’s in your interests and those of your readers to think about what you are going to say before you start.

Even if you only spend a few seconds thinking about what you want to communicate in your document before you start writing (email, brochure, letter, tender, proposal case study or similar), it will reap rewards.

Why do I need to think about the key points before I start writing business documents?

If you’ve ever had to write a business document other than an email, you’ll know it can take a very long time. Even if you’ve not got writer’s block, getting down on paper all the points you want to make and in the right order is time-consuming. And the copy editing process can take even longer, especially if you’re a perfectionist! Choosing just the right words can be an excruciating process.

The same is true whether you’re writing tenders, proposals, reports, annual reports, thought leadership, articles, case studies, blogs, capability statements or brochures.

The great benefit of taking a pause to jot down your key points on paper, or make a mental note of them, is that a little time invested up front means less time copywriting and copy editing later. It means faster, clearer writing and less rounds of edits.

That’s because taking a few seconds or minutes gives you time to consider the point or points you want to get across, and in what order.

No matter how long you spend on this, it will always pay dividends. Obviously, the amount of time depends on the length and complexity of your communication. An email to organise a meeting will need less investment than one that conveys news about a company’s performance.

By giving yourself an opportunity to pause for thought, you’ll clarify:

  • Who will be reading your business document
  • What you want them to know
  • The action you want them to take, or the action you are telling your reader that you are going to take.

Great copywriters know this – they take time to understand the key points that their clients’ want to make and then carefully draft the content. But it’s the time taken upfront where the copywriter seeks to understand the essential key messages that makes the document clear and easy for the reader. It’s also this investment of time that produces business documents that get the results intended by the author.

How to write your business document

Once you’ve noted your key points, you need to actually write the business document. As professional copywriters, we have lots of advice on what to do and what not to do, particularly words to avoid when copywriting.

But you’ll find our one simple trick to improve your business writing right now especially useful.

If your document is especially lengthy or important, you might want to consider having a copy editor review your draft. Copy editors are fundamental to producing excellent documents. They review content for grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes and particularly for consistency of flow and tone of voice. Copy editors turn average documents into gold.

For extra reassurance, professional proofreaders make sure that everything in a document is correct. They don’t edit documents or rewrite the content, but correct typos that may have slipped through and they check that all the parts of the document are in order, such as heading hierarchy, footnotes and table of contents. It might sound easy, but it’s very hard work. Proofreaders need to be able to concentrate for long periods.

Proof Communications’ professional copywriting and copy editing services

For more than two decades we’ve been copywriting, copy editing and proofreading marketing, sales and important stakeholder documents for companies and government.

We’ve written millions of words to help our clients promote, sell or market their expertise, knowledge or products. Tenders, proposals, blogs, award entries, case studies, websites – you name it, we’ve written content for it.

We step in to copywrite marketing, sales or stakeholder documents when clients don’t have the time or skills to do it themselves. We transform their ideas and knowledge into valuable content that they can reuse for different purposes, thereby offering them great value.

SMEs, start-ups, listed companies and government agencies benefit from our knowledge and commitment to helping them succeed. Since launching in 2000, we have helped hundreds of organisations win tens of millions of dollars in new business from tenders and proposals; win countless business awards and accolades through business award entries; and deliver great content in blogs, articles, newsletters and thought leadership, not to mention website copy, brochures and capability statements.

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

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