Tips for Good Business Writing

Tips for Good Business Writing

Business Writing is probably one of the most difficult skills for Thai Learners to master (It is also difficult for foreigners too) and is the skill I receive most questions about.

I will therefore make a few pages on Learn English in Bangkok with tips and ideas for improving your business writing.

There are many tips for improving your business writing and here are just a few. Follow them and your business writing will improve just like that.
1. Don’t Translate! Think in English.

Let me repeat that “Don’t translate”. One more time “DON’T TRANSLATE”.  When you write business English write it in English from the beginning. Don’t write in Thai and then translate sentence by sentence into English.
Thai written language is so different from English written language that if you translate you will produce a very long and incoherent piece of writing.
So the answer is THINK IN ENGLISH when you write.
2. Forget What You Learnt in University
Am I serious? Yes I am. At university you learnt academic writing. By that I mean you learnt to write long essays or passages with long paragraphs, long sentences and complicated vocabulary.
3. Learn to KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)
Use short simple words.
Why bother looking for long words that no one understands?
Why write “Please Avoid Pedestrian Traffic on Turf” when “Please keep off the grass” explains it very well.
Why write “utilise” when you can write “use”?There is no point in writing something if your reader has to spend hours trying to find the meaning of your complicated words.Use short sentences and paragraphs.
Modern business writing uses a more informal language, short sentences (average 15 -20 words) and short paragraphs (4 or 5 sentences). Avoid business “jargon”.
“By bringing together the two teams, we are hoping you can cross-pollinate.” Cross-pollinate? Uhm .. where are the flowers and bees?
“By bringing together the two teams, we are hoping you can share ideas”

4. Get straight to the point.

Ask yourself “Why am I writing this?” “What do I want the reader to do?”.
If you want to receive a price list from a supplier then start your correspondance with “Please send me a price list”.
Don’t start by writing two or three paragraphs about how much you like the company’s products and they are the “best in the world”, “all my friends have one” and so on. The reader will throw the letter in the bin after two paragraphs thinking you are praising the company.

6. Salutations

Don’t be over friendly. Business writing should have a certain level of formality.
Don’t use “hi”, “Ciao” and so on but use the more formal “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Peter”.
Don’t close with cute remarks like “XOXO” no matter how ell you know the receiver. Use “Best regards”, “yours sincerely” and so on.

7. Try to avoid use of the passive voice

My experience shows that Thai people love to use the passive when writing.
The active voice makes the verbs more exciting. Compare “The goods were sent yesterday” with “we sent the goods yesterday”.

8. Avoid Simple Grammatical Mistakes

Check subject verb agreement. Is the subject singular or plural?
Use a singular verb form after nobody, someone, everybody, neither, everyone, each and either.

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