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Mistakes to Avoid in Business Writing

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  • 0:00 Know Your Audience
  • 1:46 Know Your Platform
  • 3:06 Know Your State of Mind
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stacy Redd

Stacy has taught college English and has a master's degree in literature.

Well-written business communication is crucial to a functional and productive workplace. Read on to learn about common mistakes employees make in business writing and how to avoid them.

Know Your Audience

Considering your audience is a best practice for all kinds of writing, and it's particularly true in a business context. As a general rule, business communication should be written in a more formal tone than you would use for a text message or email to a friend. It's important to ensure your written business communication is free of grammatical errors and other mechanical issues that could prevent your recipient from understanding your message. Even if you're trying to get something written and sent off quickly, it's important to take the time to proofread what you've written to make sure it's clear and complete. Don't just rely on the spell and grammar check tools in your word processing program. There are certain errors that can only be caught by a careful human reviewer.

It's also important to think about whether your audience is likely to understand the jargon and abbreviations you use in your profession. Some abbreviations, like 'ASAP,' are understood across professions, but if you're using a lot of terms that are specific to your field, be sure to ask yourself if anyone will be confused by them. If so, consider replacing them with more universally understood words, or provide explanations for any potentially unfamiliar terms.

Your audience should also dictate your tone. An email sent to colleagues you know well can be friendly and casual in tone. However, if you're sending a message to your supervisor, people outside of your company, or anyone you don't know personally, you'll probably want to keep your tone more professional and formal. It's a good idea to avoid sarcasm and irony in written communication as you can't be sure that your message won't be misinterpreted by your audience, and you don't want to risk offending anyone.

Know Your Platform

Email and text message communication outside a professional context is frequently very informal. Lack of capitalization, frequent abbreviations, multiple exclamation points, and even smiley faces aren't uncommon in personal email or social media communication. However, when sending a business email or text message, it's best to adhere to standard written communication rules, as if you were sending a formal letter. It may be tempting to express your excitement for an upcoming project using five exclamation points or a happy face, but that's really not appropriate in a business setting and could make your writing seem less professional, even if the content itself is very good.

If you're using an intra-office chat client, it's usually fine to use more informal language and even emoticons when sending an instant message, as long as you're confident your message is clear. When in doubt, play it safe and use complete sentences and professional language.

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