Six simple ways small business owners can become better writers
Updated: Mar 19
By Alexandra Vanags
Writing is an essential skill for any small business owner, but many find it a challenge. Here are a few steps to help make it easier.
If you own a small business, then it’s likely you need to write from time to time. This might include client proposals, blog posts and of course emails.
Many people find writing a challenge, so if you hate the thought of putting something down on paper then you’re not alone.
The good news is, there are a few easy ways to improve your writing. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Know your audience
Before you start any piece of writing, consider who you’re writing for. If your industry is very technical, for example, will potential customers understand as much about it as you do, or will you need to explain in more detail? Will they understand industry jargon and acronyms?
Ask yourself: what do my readers want to get out of this piece? What type of information will they be looking for? This will help you make sure what you’re writing is relevant.
At the same time, think about why you are trying to achieve – reach new customers, nurture a long-term relationship with an existing client?
Getting this clear in your head should help you start your piece of writing with more confidence and direction.
It will also help you work out how formal you want the writing to be. An email to someone you’ve known a long time will probably be more relaxed, perhaps using a greeting like Hi and contractions like ‘we’re’ and ‘I’ll’. A major proposal to a new corporate client might be more formal.
2. Keep it focused
Trying to cram too many ideas into one piece can lead to rambling, unfocused writing which is boring to read and doesn’t communicate your message.
It’s a good idea to decide on one or two messages/topics that you want to cover before you start, then keep them in mind as you’re writing.
If anything doesn’t fit, it may need to be put in a separate section or somewhere entirely different.
3. Make it easy to read
Long blocks of text are boring for your reader, so it’s worth breaking up your piece. This includes:
Keeping paragraphs short and making sure there are spaces between paragraphs. This will create lots of ‘white space’ on the page which is more appealing to read
Putting information under bullet points
Breaking your writing up with small sub-headings (like the ones used in this piece)
Using a picture, graph, diagram or infographic to enhance your message
4. Don’t use big words (for the sake of it)
You might be tempted to make your writing sound better using a thesaurus. However, cramming big words in for no good reason can have to opposite effect, making writing awkward and more difficult to understand. And if you use an unfamiliar word, you may even get the meaning slightly wrong.
Don’t write ‘utilise’ when you mean ‘use’. Why say “our businesses would be very synergistic” when you mean “we’d work well together”?
5. Remember less is more
A first draft can contain many unnecessary words which only make it more difficult for the reader.
Even the best writers can overuse certain words. ‘Just’, ‘actually’ or ‘probably’ are all examples of words you might slip in without thinking, but which will weaken your writing. Try creating a Wordcloud to see if there are any words you are overusing.
Challenge yourself to read your piece of writing back, sentence-by-sentence and cut one or two words out of every single one. You’ll be amazed by how many words are unnecessary when you really start to think about it!
6. Catch those typos!
Even the most informative, well-written piece will fall flat if it contains errors. Speling mistaiks and tyops are obvious to your reader but can be difficult to pick up yourself.
If you can, ask someone to proofread it for you. Otherwise, try some of these methods:
Leave the document for a while, overnight if you can, so you can return with ‘fresh eyes’
Print it out (on scrap paper of course!) and read it back
Read it out loud (there are even programs which read PDFs to you)
Change the font type, colour or size to make it look different
Try reading it upside-down (strange but works for some people).
If you went to school in Australia in the 80s and 90s, then it’s possible you received no formal training in grammar. This can be challenging and even embarrassing at times.
Grammarly is a great tool for picking up mistakes in your writing. However, be careful not to over-use Grammarly as it can’t write for you.
You could even check out your local community college, organisations like the Australian Writers’ Centre or reputable online trainers for short courses to brush up on your grammar.
If business writing is proving difficult then remember a little preparation can improve your skills dramatically. And if in doubt, remember simple is always better.
Alexandra Vanags is an experienced journalist and copywriter who helps businesses communicate their stories through websites, blog posts, newsletters and more.