Effective Business Writing: The Importance of Plain Language

Effective Business Writing: The Importance of Plain Language

When running a business, it is important to be aware of how you communicate with your customers, your staff, your investors, and your suppliers. Your written materials, from your business plan to your marketing, are often the first encounter a person has with your company.  It is therefore important to make sure that your writing is clear, and that it is relatable. 

As is the nature of small business, one of the essentials skills you must learn is the speed factor. You need to get your message across quickly and in a way that is easy to understand. This is where the principles of plain language come into play. 

What Does Plain Language Mean?

Plain language means keeping your writing clear and succinct. It means removing the content that detracts the reader from your message. 

For example:

“His report outlined three issues: a lack of high paying clients, conversions, and return customers.”

Is much more effective than:

“His report to upper management delineated that the issues of the day were threefold. These included observations about the influx of low level prospects, a lack of effective conversions, and an inability to attract return patronage” 

6 Ways to Simplify your Business Writing 

Here are three simple ways to simplify your language:

  1. Remember Your Audience. Does your audience know as much as you do about your area of expertise? Probably not, so remember to keep things simple. With this in mind, you should:
    • Drop the jargon. Remove phrases like “burn rate”, “touch base”, and “paradigm shifters”
    • Replace inflated language with simple words. For example “transpired” means “happened”, “paradigm” means “ideal”, and “conundrum” is just a fancy word for “problem”.

  2. Organization. Your message should always be presented in a sequential, logical, step-by-step manner to make it is easy to follow.
  3. Use Active Voice. Make it clear who is doing what. Sentences should be “we will do this to achieve X” rather than “the company will achieve X by doing Y” 
  4. Use Clean Design.The presentation of your message is just as important as the words you use. Effective use of white space, headlines, subheadings, colour, font, images – are all elements that can either support your message, or distract from it.
  5. Minimize Long Blocks of Text. Help your reader digest the information you are presenting in small chunks whenever possible. Break long paragraphs into shorter ones with subheadings, and make sentences no longer than 20 words.
  6. Use Tables, Charts, and Examples. For information that is complex or data that needs to be analyzed, remember to include helpful visual aids or examples.

By keeping these tips in mind, your business writing will become more clear, readable, and easy to understand. The result? Customers who flock to your business because they want to utilize use your services.


About Nicole Breit

Nicole Breit is the owner of Sparrow Writing + Editorial Services, and is the co-author of Communicating with Confidence: The Creative, Ambitious Entrepreneur's Guide to Better Business Writing. When Nicole isn't helping her clients perfect their web copy, blog posts, articles, and ebooks, she writes for fun. Her debut poetry collection, I Can Make Life, was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard poetry competition, and was launched in April 2012.