Editing is an essential step in developing effective business documents. Besides correcting grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors, editing can make your writing easier to understand and more persuasive. Here are a few simple editing tips that can help you make your business writing more clear and effective.
- Replace complicated and long words and phrases with simple ones. Simple words often convey the same meaning as complicated ones, but require less space and are easier to read. For example, you can change ‘facilitate’ to ‘help’; ‘operate’ to ‘use’; and ‘substantiate’ to ‘prove’. Replacing wordy phrases with single words will make your writing more readable and efficient. For instance, replace ‘on a regular basis’ with ‘regularly’ and ‘at this point in time’ with ‘now’.
- Edit your business writing to replace passive voice with active voice. For example, change ‘Innovative products and services are offered by our company’ to ‘Our company offers innovative products and services’. Using active voice requires fewer words and is more direct.
- Break up long sentences into shorter ones. Research has shown that comprehension goes down when sentences are too long, so aim for an average sentence length of 20 words or fewer. Sentences over 35 words in length should be broken into two sentences, if possible, when editing.
- Create a conversational tone by using the personal pronouns ‘you’ and ‘we’. This is important when you want to connect with your customers and be perceived as approachable. For example, change ‘Advice can be obtained from our customer service department’ to ‘You can get advice from our customer service department’.
When editing business writing that is meant to persuade your readers, change ‘our clients’ to ‘you’. For example, ‘We offer you a comprehensive range of programs and services’ sounds conversational, while ‘We offer our clients a comprehensive range of programs and services’ does not.
Another way to make your writing more conversational and friendly is by writing ‘we’ instead of repeating your company name throughout the document.
- Remove clichés. These overused phrases have lost their meanings and waste space. Examples of common clichés include phrases such as ‘at the end of the day’, ‘for all intents and purposes’ and ‘as safe as houses’.
- Avoid using business and technical jargon. Like clichés, many of these terms are overused and have vague meanings. Corporate jargon includes words such as actionable, best practice, buy-in, drive (as in ‘drive sales’), incentivise, operationalise, repurpose and value proposition. When editing, think about your readers and replace words they won’t understand with common terms.
- Read the first draft out loud to judge how it sounds. Is it complicated, wordy or pompous? Rewrite it to make it more human and less robotic.
Editing is an important step in business writing. By applying the editing tips outlined here, you can improve your business writing and communicate more effectively.