When we talk about good business writing skills, we are not talking about academic writing or formal stuffy writing or writing that uses lots of adjectives or that sounds self-important. That’s because the writing we do at work has a very specific purpose, and that purpose is not to make ourselves sound more intelligent or more important. It’s to communicate clearly, concisely, accurately and sometimes persuasively.

So what are the characteristics of good business writing? In my opinion, good business writing has five characteristics necessary for the work environment. It is:

  1. Accurate, so it leaves no room for error or misunderstanding
  2. Clearly written, so that it is easy to understand the message and obvious what action the reader needs to take, if any
  3. Logical in structure, so the thought process or reasoning is easy to follow
  4. Free of errors with proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
  5. Concise without being rude, leaving out unnecessary details

I also like to say that good business writing is reader-centric, meaning you wrote it for the person on the receiving end so your reader can understand your message on the first read through. And that’s what you’re doing when you have these five characteristics.

How does your business writing rank right now? However you might rank your business writing skills at this point, good or bad or somewhere in between, we all have room to improve. If you’re frustrated, take heart. You can only get better. If it’s your coworker’s writing that drives you crazy, share these five characteristics with them. Or maybe you are happy with your business writing skills already, but still want to improve? If so, pick one of these five characteristics and focus on that for the following week until you see some improvement. Me? I will work on concise! When you’ve been writing professionally for as long as I have, and you can type as fast as I can, it’s very easy to be verbose!

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.