Wednesday 22 November 2017

Sarah Marriott is a highly-experienced trainer and former-journalist who specialises in delivering Writing Skills courses for the public and private sectors. Sarah has worked as a feature writer and sub-editor at The Irish Times. She has also been involved in training Irish Times editorial staff. She is a former lecturer on the MA in Journalism at Dublin Institute of Technology and is author of Common Errors in Written English..

Two top tips for effective business writing – think about the ‘why’ and the ‘who’!

Effective writing can be a vital tool for communication, both inside and outside of an organisation. Too often, though, communications are unclear and unfocused, and so, they fail to fulfil their potential.

Successful writing involves planning – no matter what you’re writing. Before you start, it’s vital to consider two things: your objectives and your audience.


Tip 1 – Define your objectives

Why are you writing? What is the main aim? You probably want to inform, but what else do you want to do? Do you also want to persuade? Influence attitudes or behaviour? Make a proposal? Explain, justify or clarify? Request action or information?

Whatever you’re writing, decide what you’re setting out to achieve.

It’ll help to focus your mind on specific objectives instead of simply setting out information. It will also give you a benchmark when you come to reviewing, so you can assess if you’ve accomplished what you set out to.


Tip 2 – Identify your target audiences

Who are you writing for? How many different groups of readers do you have? You need to plan and write with your specific readers in mind.

You then need to adapt your writing style, content, structure, language, and possibly even layout to ensure your document will meet readers’ needs and help you to achieve your objectives.

For example, IT experts reading a business case for purchasing new software would expect technical specs, jargon, tables and highly detailed information. So that’s what goes into the report.

But if you’re writing for a wide readership, different groups of readers might have varying needs, concerns and levels of understanding.

For instance, a report on safety guidelines for train drivers might be read by drivers, managers, HR staff, regulatory bodies, trades unions and the media. That means each point must be clearly explained, in straightforward language, using visuals, in clearly labelled sections – and without jargon.