How to Write in Business Format

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Writing documents in business format is a valuable skill to have in the workplace. You may be required to write letters, emails, reports, proposals, presentations and many other kinds of documents for internal and external stakeholders. Be sure to follow the guidelines so your document is easy to understand and conveys your message clearly. Ineffective written communication in business can cause misinformation and a loss of productivity.

Be Aware of Company Guidelines

Many businesses that produce high amounts of internal and external content establish writing guidelines for employees to follow. These rules often include a style guide, which is a set of standards regarding spellings of commonly used words, punctuation rules and grammar rules. Some businesses follow the APA format, which is mostly used in academic and scholarly settings and is established by the American Psychological Association.

Other businesses go by Associated Press style, or AP style, which is commonly used by the media. Some businesses merge elements from different style guides.

Use the Right Tone for Your Company's Culture

If your organization doesn’t have a style guide, refer to the culture of your company to establish the tone and style for business writing. For example, if your business is formal and structured, you may require all business-format writing to be formal in tone and language. If your organization is informal, then you may decide that it’s appropriate for business-format writing to be casual as well. Be sure that your writing is consistent with the rest of your company.

If you’re writing a formal business letter, for example, you’ll need to use salutations such as “to” or “dear.” If you’re writing an informal business email, you can use salutations like “hi” or “hello” instead.

Write for the Intended Audience

Always write your content so that it appeals to the audience. For example, if you’re writing a resume and cover letter, you’ll need to ensure you follow a formal structure and include relevant information that is required by the company to which you’re applying. If you’re writing a press release, you’ll need to carefully craft messaging based on your company’s promotional strategy. Don’t use overly technical language if your audience isn’t familiar with it.

Remember that people often read several items each day in the workplace. Employees can become overwhelmed with tasks and information. When writing in business format, ensure your document is succinct and to the point. Be direct and avoid the use of industry jargon or words that have ambiguous meanings. This way, you can reduce misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Use the Correct Business Format

Use the correct structure and format for the content you’re writing. Are you writing a brochure, memo, email, white paper, report, presentation or announcement? Your company may have guidelines for each kind of business paper.

For example, most companies write business letters in block style, which means that the content of the letter is justified to the left side of the page. The letter is single spaced with double spaces between paragraphs. Margins are kept at 1 inch on all sides. This format is followed with both electronic and print business letters.

Ensure Your Work Is Accurate and Professional

In all kinds of business-format writing, make sure that your work is free of errors. After you have written your content, proofread it so there are no grammatical or punctuation errors. Review the material so there are no factual inconsistencies or items that need clarification.

Many business issues are deemed confidential for certain audiences or during certain time periods. For example, new partnership information may be under embargo for the media and customers until a certain date. Be careful about what kind of information you’re sharing and with whom. Have a colleague or superior review your business-format content if it contains sensitive information.

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About the Author

Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.

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