Boost your CV with our professional writing courses
Writing professionally is a critical skill in today’s workplace. The rise of remote work means that we communicate in writing more than we ever did before.
In this article we share our advice for updating your professional writing skills. We discuss:
- what professional writing looks like
- how it can benefit your career
- how to brush up on your writing skills.
What does professional writing look like?
Less corporate speak, more everyday speech
The problem with a lot of professional writing is that when trying to sound ‘professional’, many writers resort to corporate speak. They use vague terms that confuse the reader, convoluted sentences that are too long, and an official tone that sounds pompous.
After working in an office for a while, many professionals find themselves writing words they’d never use in everyday life. Corporate buzzwords like ‘blue-sky thinking’, ‘drill down’ and ‘synergy’ become part of their vocabulary.
When writing at work, resist the temptation to use these words. Instead, say what you mean using simple, everyday words. Edit your work to remove vague expressions and reduce your word count. No-one wants to spend time reading content that’s longer than it needs to be.
To help get your message across efficiently, choose specific, concrete words that convey your meaning. If you’re referring to an email, use the word ‘email’ not ‘correspondence’. And choose simple, active verbs, like ‘investigate’ rather than ‘conduct an investigation’. This simple strategy will give your writing an energy boost and help you get to your point quickly!
More action, less ambiguity
One of the biggest barriers to clear professional writing is the passive voice. This grammatical structure is often used by writers who are trying to sound professional. But it can easily backfire.
Take this example, ‘An audit into our office’s sustainability initiatives will be conducted.’ This sentence structure removes accountability and transparency. There’s no way of knowing who will do the auditing.
By forcing your reader to guess who is doing the doing, you slow them down and raise questions in their mind. Of course, sometimes you won’t know who is doing the doing, and in cases like that, the passive voice is appropriate. But wherever possible, it’s best to use the active voice. Try this structure instead: ‘Alex will audit our office’s sustainability initiatives.’
A lighter tone of voice, plain and simple
Professional writing has a reputation for sounding stuffy and impersonal. But it doesn’t need to be. You can use contractions, pronouns and other humanising words, such as ‘please’, to lighten the tone of your writing.
To engage your reader, keep your tone friendly and to the point. Your readers would much prefer to read this: ‘Thanks for your email and the comments you made’ rather than ‘Receipt is acknowledged of your recent communication, whose contents have been noted’. Wouldn’t you?
Turn writing at work into writing that works with our ISO-aligned plain language system.
Above all, professional writing should be in plain language. This means your writing should be clear enough for your reader to:
- find the information they need
- understand what they find
- use this information.
Avoiding the common pitfalls of would-be professional writers will help you write in plain language. And best of all, you’ll come across as a capable and effective professional who respects your readers’ time.
How can writing professionally benefit your career?
Writing professionally has clear benefits for your:
Using plain language to write professionally helps you be more productive. It reduces misunderstandings and errors, saves writing and reviewing time, and increases reader engagement.
For example, New Zealand’s Ministry of Internal Affairs used plain language in just one application form and the error rate in completed application forms dropped from 66% to just 10%. This freed up employees to divert their attention to higher-priority tasks. For more examples of plain language reducing error rates, check out Dr Joseph Kimble’s book, Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please 2nd edition.
Writing in plain language can also help you organise your thoughts to communicate more persuasively. This means that the next time you interview for a job, negotiate a raise or close a sale, you’ll have the tools to persuade your interviewer, manager or client.
But what is it that makes plain language persuasive? It encourages you to lead with your strongest arguments and that helps you to get your point quickly and effectively.
Using plain language can also have the added benefit of making you seem more confident. A recent study suggests that people who use jargon often do it because they’re insecure and want to disguise this.
Plain language avoids jargon in favour of clear and concrete terms. So it makes sense to take the time to write plainly and precisely to make sure you convey a confident and credible impression.
How can you brush up your writing skills?
Writing every day at work will give you plenty of opportunity to practise writing professionally. You can ask your manager or other experienced writers for feedback and advice. But sometimes you need the experts to set you on the right path.
We offer writing courses online and in person to refine your business writing skills. And we have training facilities in most major cities: Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth.
Our workshops cover topics for professionals, such as:
- media, communications and digital writing
- letter and email writing
- board paper, audit and report writing
- legal writing
- policy and procedure writing.
And all our courses align with the new international standard, Plain language – Part 1: Governing principles and guidelines (ISO 24495-1).
- communication specialists
- professionals writing at work
- students and academics.