Thanks to technology, small businesses have sophisticated communication tools to connect with employees and customers, as well as vendors and the general public. As you keep pace with social media, blogging and marketing with smartphone apps, don’t underestimate the ethical and financial value of business communication principles.


Tell the truth. You might need to announce an impending layoff or explain a tragic accident to government safety officials. Although you could face employee anger or public scrutiny, don't let the fear of negative reaction to bad news suppress honesty. Fudging facts or omitting essential, nonproprietary information jeopardizes your business’s credibility with employees, customers, the public and the media.

Truth-telling is mandatory in advertising. The Federal Trade Commission brings charges against companies that intentionally lie, issue unfair statements about competitors or make exaggerated claims in product or service promotions.

Grammatical Correctness

Use correct grammar in all communication. Check written messages for misspellings and punctuation errors. Avoid wordy or run-on sentences by sticking to the subject-verb-object structure. For example, change the sentence “Reports on sales should be placed in in-boxes on the top of your desks” to “Place sales reports in your in-box.”

Brad Hoover, CEO of Grammarly, a grammar-improving software company, writes in “Good Grammar Should Be Everybody’s Business,” published by the “Harvard Business Review,” that good grammar is how ideas are expressed clearly, professionally and precisely, even though language has become informal through tweeting, texting and emailing.


Tell audiences upfront why you’re communicating with them. Mysterious, vague, distorted or conflicting messages foster mistrust. Use familiar, commonly understood language. Substitute the word “contemplating,” for example, with the phrase “thinking about.” Organize sentences and paragraphs so they follow a logical order in the overall text.

Miscommunicated messages can be financially costly for small businesses. A misused word in advertising could deflate sales by angering customers. Confusing instructions for a safety procedure could lead to on-the-job injuries that raise workers’ compensation claims.


Keep communication consistent. Avoid describing a new workplace policy one way in a company email and another way in the employee handbook. If you lowercase your company’s name, see that it always appears that way. Use visuals of the same style and quality in marketing campaigns.

You lose credibility and your audience's trust with inconsistencies. You also lose the ability to build a company brand, which requires integrating your logo, website, social-networking activity and ads to create one unified impression.


Choose a communication tone that suits audiences and topics. Emailing employees about the annual office picnic should be upbeat and engaging. A sales promotion also can be upbeat and persuasive to attract customers. A social-networking blog showcasing your expertise can be friendly, engaging and professional. A product-discontinuation announcement works best when it's business-like but apologetic to disappointed customers.

Communication that’s sincere and courteous helps build employee and customer loyalty. Language that angers, belittles, insults or stereotypes audiences is financially and legally risky.