Guide to Improving Writing Styles

The following article looks at the different writing styles and offers tips for improving these.

Is your current style overly-sophisticated?

If your vocabulary is deep and rich and you use complex, compound sentences, this style can challenge readers who read website content and emails quickly. Here are some tactics you can use:

  • Make your words shorter: Find a simpler or shorter version for long words e.g. use choice instead of prerogative, clear instead of comprehensible, carelessly instead of injudiciously. Use a thesaurus to find replacement words.
  • Make your sentences shorter: Try to make sentences an average length of 20 words or even less and no more than around 35 words. Try not to use semicolons because these indicate complex sentences.
  • Shorter blocks of text with bullet points are better than long, fully developed paragraphs.

Is your current writing style too formal and cautious?

This style will need to be adapted when writing informal texts. For example, blogs, articles for newsletters, and the majority of presentations need a style that an audience can personally connect with. Here is some advice:

    Use shorter sentences.
  • It is best to address your readers as “you” and not “one,” “readers,” “the reader” or “the stakeholder.”
  • The use of first names is preferable to the use of surnames.
  • Use occasional exclamation marks!
  • There is no need to observe conventional rules. For instance, it is permissible for sentences to:
    • Start with conjunction words e.g. “But we were surprised by the results.”
    • End with prepositions, e.g., “ There are the files you have been searching for.”
    • Include contractions, e.g., “We’re always happy to assist.”
  • Replace crisp or sharp words with phrases. For instance, use “now and again” or “sometimes” instead of “occasionally. While these phrases are not so concise, there is a more casual feel about them.

Is your current style too informal?

Of all the different writing styles, an informal style is not suitable for, say, proposal writing or report writing. If your style is not formal enough, ignore the tips in point 2 above. Try these instead:

  • Write full sentences instead of fragments of sentences.
  • Make proper use of punctuation. Do not sprinkle your writing with dashes just because you are uncertain about the correct punctuation.
  • Sentences should end with full stops rather than trailing off with ellipses (e.g. …).
  • Do not add quotations after your email sign-off.
  • Do not use fussy backgrounds (e.g., wallpaper) in email messages or, indeed, any unneeded graphics or smiley/sad faces.

Is your current style concise?

When considering the various types of writing styles, it is undoubtedly a virtue to be concise in almost every case when writing for business. However, there can be an abrupt feel to concise writing. Here are some tips to add warmth:

  • Refer to readers by name.
  • Refer to yourself by first name and do not forget to sign email messages.
  • Instead of using “thanks” or “alright,” write full sentences.
  • Use the type of words and the type of phrases that convey warmth, e.g., “delighted,” “happily,” “pleased to,” and so on.
  • It is best to avoid words that indicate pushiness such as “now,” “immediately,” etc.
  • It can help to read your written work out loud to identify points that can be elaborated on.

Is your current style too wordy?

To understand this writing style definition i.e. the wordy style, it is true that the conversational style can be successful when writing fiction or when creativity is needed for some other purpose. However, this style is not suitable for business documents because these often require communication to be concise and efficient. The following are a few tips for when you want a text to sound concise:

  • Make your explanations short and invite readers to let you know if they require more information.
  • Remind yourself that those reading your text probably have many other texts to read, so tailor your writing to suit.
  • Review any messages you have written, as a way of checking that there is no unnecessary detail or irrelevant background information. Remove everything except what you really want to say.
  • Do the 10% test. Cut everything you write by 10%.
 

Is your current style dry?

People whose essay writing styles are dry are usually those who are very factual and good with figures. However, this style may sometimes need to be enriched so that it is more persuasive and compelling. Try the following tips:

  • Before beginning, consider the best part of your message. Will your readers be excited by it? If you think so, make that your continuous theme. For instance, if a 15% increase in productivity is the best part, say how this will be achieved, and later, how it will even be improved.
  • Pronouns such as “I,” “we,” and “you” are good for making a written piece more engaging and friendly.
  • Analogies and anecdotes can bring factual information to life.
  • Enhance articles and reports with visuals. Put interesting quotations in text boxes and/or display main headings in colour.
  • Use charts and tables instead of columns of figures to communicate factual information quickly.

Is your current style very analytical?

An analytical style is a good essay style for business. However, the majority of business writing should focus on actions and getting things done. Here are a few tips for changing analytical writing to application:

  • Work out what your key message is and what action you want readers to take. Once you have the answers, highlight the most important information for your readers.
  • Use headings like “Required Action” in your writing to shift the focus from analysis to action.
  • Rather than “background information” in longer documents, include an “executive summary.” This summary should briefly convey the document’s conclusions.
  • When writing about products, remember that readers will simply need to sell or use them and not make them.
  • Call people. Bear in mind that you can get quicker results from a conversation than a meticulously-written email or memo since these might not be read.
  • If you need to provide more information, use attachments and/or links. Too much content can overwhelm or “lose” readers.

Is your current style very friendly?

A friendly tone is not necessarily appropriate in every case. For instance, the tone needs to be formal when writing to important people, refuting a claim, and so on. You may find the tips in point 3 helpful as well as these:

  • It is best to avoid contractions and slang.
  • It is preferable to use people’s surnames and not their first names.
  • Resist the temptation to mention anything of a personal nature regarding your reader, e.g., anything regarding their health or social activities.
  • Do not write anything personal about yourself, your family, etc.
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