Business Writing Simplified - How to make your writing easier to read. | Chris Heath | Skillshare

Business Writing Simplified - How to make your writing easier to read.

Chris Heath, The Geometrical Design Guy

Business Writing Simplified - How to make your writing easier to read.

Chris Heath, The Geometrical Design Guy

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7 Lessons (25m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Myths

    • 3. Principles

    • 4. Simplify

    • 5. Bullets

    • 6. Overcoming Ambiguity

    • 7. Bye

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About This Class

Are your emails and reports getting the attention you think they deserve. Perhaps you are proud of what you have written, but could it be more to the point? 

In this class, learn:

  • about the myths surrounding business writing, and
  • how you can simplify your written correspondence and documentation.

Find the balance between clarity and conciseness, that sweet spot that makes your writing easy to read. After all, if it's easy to read, it's more likely to be read. So ensure your correspondence and documentation goes to the top of your audience's priority list of what to read.

This introductory class is for people who write:

  • emails and letters
  • memos, papers and reports
  • manuals and online help, and
  • lawyers who want to use plain English.


Meet Your Teacher

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Chris Heath

The Geometrical Design Guy


Check out my profile page to discover more classes for artists and designers.

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1. Introduction: Have you ever received a document that you had to read because it was your job to read it because you actually wanted to read it? And when you into read it, your brain would glaze over some documents, take 234 or even five times to read in order to understand what the writer has written. So the question I have for you is as a possible that people have the same problem with what you have. Rutile. Of course not, because what you have written is absolutely wonderful. And at the end of the day, anyone can rise. Year arrives, I CREss. I've been a writer and illustrator for more than 20 years. In this class, we will start off by looking at some of the myths surrounding writing within the business context. Then we will move on to some principles, which you can use to bring clarity and conciseness toe what you're writing, because if it is clear and concise, it is going to be easier to read, And if it is easier to read, it is more likely to be read. So let's move on to the first listen and start to look at some of the myths surrounding writing within the business context 2. Myths: So what are some of the myths about writing? The 1st 1 is you have to be creative when communicating with others and writing. It's important not to get overly creative with your synonyms and objectives. It's important not to refer to the same thing with a number of different names, and it's important not to use the same name or term when referring to a number of different things. The world is full of TL A's and buzzwords that a unique tone industry, a company or even a project team within a company. So do you have to be creative? Well, only if you're writing a novel, and this class is not about writing novels, you have to come across as intelligent. It's not unusual to want to impress people with an expense of vocabulary using large or foreign sounding words. I think everyone goes through this phase to some degree at some stage in their lives. But this comment is not about showing off, and expanding your vocabulary is actually a good thing. The point I'm making is that it's more important to focus on what you want to say and to use your audiences vocabulary. If you want to get your message across, and that is often a much broader audience than you think, and maybe a much harder objective for some people to recognize and achieve. Do you have to come across his intelligent? That's a firm? No, here is a yes, no question. And I want you to go with the first answer that springs to mind. Is it important that your readers need to be fully informed? You may be writing about an up and coming events, a local issue that is affecting the health of your community. Or you're providing financial information so that your customers can make an informed decision and to the question. Do your readers need to be fully informed? The answer is no. And we will come back to the soon because I know some of you will be thinking the answer is yes and on to your last point. Has anyone ever stopped and canceled their appointments for the day to read a large email or report that you have symptom? You write it. You poured your heart and soul into it. I hate to be the Bureau of Disappointing News, but when it comes to business documentation and correspondence. People are simply not dying to read what you have written. So those are the months. Instead of being creative with your synonyms and adjectives and what you call things, be consistent with your choice of words. That's, for example, you are writing a manual on how to use a computer rather than getting creative by referring to the monitor. Is a monitor thin? Referring to It is a screen. Then referring to it is a display. Settle on only using one of thes tombs consistently through your documentation, I would go to screen. And this is because I think of a monitor is a person who keeps an eye on something, and I like to use the word display as a verb rather than a noun, especially if I'm writing, for example, a user guide. Instead of trying to come across his intelligent use plain English as much as you can. It's a balancing it. Sometimes you do need to use industry terms, however, if you are writing to people or writing for people who are new to the industry, using plain English can help bring them up to speed a lot faster. The readers need to be fully informed. No Raiders need to be reasonably informed if you drown your readers in a notion of information thinking they need to be fully informed. That can lead to paralysis for the reader, by all means provide the readers with what they need to know to make an informed decision. Just don't drown them with everything you can think off as the writer. You have to do all of the work so that all the reader has to do is read it once toe. Understand it. Remember easier to read. Documents are more likely to be rid. These are the principles are keep in mind when writing construct Cherie information. Easy reading can be hard writing, but the more you do it, the easier kids. 3. Principles: all five principles that I'm going to cover briefly are important to keep in mind when writing whether you're writing an email, the report or a block post. All these principles work together to help you to find the right balance of clarity and conciseness on all your written communications. Know your audience. I remember when my daughter was four years old and she was telling me about someone she met , and she assumed I knew this person because up until that point, I knew everyone on her world. Even as adults, we still do this. It's normal to assume our pools of knowledge and vocabulary are shared with everyone. It's just that outside, for example, air specialized jobs or the industries we work. And it's not as universal as we want to expect. Consider that your audience may not be familiar with what's in your head or how you think. Consider with the vocabulary you use every day with your colleagues are universally understood because, for example, this me a subject minute expert or small to medium enterprise. Well, something else if you're talking about SMEs as a subject matter expert, but the person you're talking to is trying to relate your dialogue too small to medium enterprises, their brains are going to glaze over. Consider how book you want your audience to bay. If you want to reach a wider audience, be more inclusive with your vocabulary. No. What do you want to say? Take some time to work out what your primary message is. What is it that you really want to communicate? Do a large brain dump on paper or on your word processor? A Mind met may be useful. Just a figure out and arrange your thoughts. Just take here not to share these muddled thoughts. Tidy them up first and be sure to remove anything that could be distracting or potentially misleading. Know why you want to say it? Ask yourself why you want to communicate this information. Something is driving you. Or perhaps it helps to simply understand your purpose, for example, to persuade someone to do something to inform the readers of something that is going on or to bring someone up to speed with an aspect of the new job. Don't make me think. If you know what you want to say and understand why you are saying it, then it's important that you do all of the words the writer, so that your readers can read at once and get what you're saying. Remember these two things. Your audience only needs to be reasonably informed, so don't drown them with too many choices or too much knowledge. Most business writing is long, complex and takes forever to get to the point. This is self defeating as theater available. Reading time is often only a few minutes. Simplify. I know some people think that simplification is a form of dumbing things down for your audience. Let me assure you that this is not the case. Have you ever sent an email only to be disappointed that the recipient missed the point you were trying to make and focused on some other aspect of your email? Simplification is the process of removing anything that can cloud what we're trying to say . The simplest way to achieve simplicity eaters through the thoughtful removal off anything that it's little or no value to your primary message. It's important to weigh up what you're saying against your primary message or key point. Sometimes this means sacrificing content that you are proud off, and this can be difficult. That with while providing too much information, increases the probability of two things. People are less likely to read what you have written, or they are more likely to miss what you're trying to tell them and will focus on something that you consider irrelevant. 4. Simplify: stove into an example. This'll is an email or received a while back from a real estate agent or real tour. I thought this email was a good example of what not to do. And so I reworked it in center, big asking the writer of I can use it in my workshops. The right was happy for me to use it as long as I changed the names. What I would like you to do is pause this video in a moment and write down three things you could do to improve this email. So pause now, while the countdown is running and give it some thought. Graze now you're back. What could you improve that would bring clarity to this email? Well, shorter sentences would have made it easier to raid. Locating that e mails, primary or key message, and putting it up front would ensure it doesn't get missed. Using bold text sparingly and giving it a purpose helps. At present, the bold text creates what I call random. I'm Ignatz thes magnets draw the readers I and been read together. They make no sense at all shift the focus from what the writer is up to end focus on what is in it for the reader and the last improvement we could make, although they probably are a fume or is simply remove words and phrases that had no value. So let's apply a bit of simplification. The first sentence is long winded, and a lot of it can be removed to make it easier to read. For example, does the writer really need to tell me that he's doing me a favor by providing me with a kid to see? I mean, what does it actually main? Does the writer really need to tell me he is writing to me at all? That's a given so they can go. And here we have removed all of the fluff and we're left with the sentences. Primary message. Let's remove some or redundant words or phrases. Have you ever heard of Wednesday, Thursday or Friday falling on a weekend so the phrase during the week can go? The last part of this clean up is to add some consistency and the presentation. So instead of wid Thursday or Friday night, let's write all the days out in full, and once we've done that, it just flows a lot easier. And here is the after so much easier to read. In addition to the changes of missions so far, I used bold only for the catch line and rearranged the content. Been pasting the center. An email. I'd move the catch line to the subject field thin were straight into the why thin the offer and then the call to action. The email on the right is much easier to read. It doesn't make me, is the reader. Stop to think of it what the writer is trying to say. I don't have to read it multiple times to get the message. So remember, if it's easier to read, it's more likely to be really. This is simplification process of thoughtful reduction if de cluttering of redundant words and phrases resulting in a clear and concise message. 5. Bullets: Now let's move on to another tool you can use to simplify your sentences. Some of you will be doing this already, possibly without giving it too much thought. But I'm talking about here is using bullets to bring clarity to what can be long, convoluted sentences. In particular, we can use bullets to make your documents easier to read. Provide. Welcome what space and express relationships more clearly. So here is a before and after example of a policy statement, starting with the original sentence on the lift. As the reader, you immediately lose the will to live, does right into the jargon without getting straight to the point, and you have to read it multiple times toe work out whether it actually applies to you on the right. Anyone who reads this confessed work out with the information is going to be relevant before reading on. If it is relevant to the reader, it clearly tells the reader, Win this policy applies and what they need to do. And let's listen. I'm going to show you three ways. You can use bullets to bring clarity to your writing. You can use bullets for bulleted lists, breaking a single sentence as we just saw down into easily digested chunks off information and listing sentences. The bulleted list. This is perhaps the most familiar use of bullets here. We're using bullets to create a simple, on ordered list of items. The rule about capitalization and full stops are the ones I use because we're using bullets . Any other punctuation is redundant. Some people like to head semi colons again. When using bullets, they had no value and can be dropped altogether. This is a list of examples, so there is also no need for an end. The bulleted sentence. We started this. Listen with a bulleted sentence, and here is another example. This is a complete sentence. We can use bullets to form a sentence by heading a colon, replacing Commons with bullets, retaining standard sentence capitalization, placing a comma before the conditional statement and ending with the full stop. And, of course, it's much easier to scan and raid then, when it's buried on the paragraph with no whites base around it. So a bulleted sentence is easier to read and easier to read. Sentences only need to be read wants to understand them bulleted sentences. The last example of using bullets is pretty straightforward. In this example, we're listing a set off sentences. Each bulleted item is a sentence in its own right, that is, each bullet. It sentence follows standard sentence capitalization and ends with a full stop. The relationship between these sentences is established up front. Where asks you to follow these four rolls? If written is a paragraph, this could take readers of wild trip the hits around the rules, so have a go. This is a simple exercise. Oh, put a count down on this to give you five seconds to hit the pause button. And while you're posing the slits on, grab a pen and paper and try to right the sentence out using bullets. Hold on. Here is my tip that simplifying his partners frustrations using a bull if it sentence. One thing you may have found yourself doing on reading these bullets sentences is scanning the list. Bulleted iPhones are easy to scan. It's a bit like getting a bird's eye view of what you're about to raid and working out, whether it's relevant or not, before actually reading it 6. Overcoming Ambiguity: in this last listen, we will cover how to use bulleted sentences to overcome ambiguity. So what I mean by ambiguity? I'm talking about the use of the words and and Or I find that sometimes people use end when they mean or end. Sometimes use or when they mean end toe add to the confusion. Some people try to cover all bases by using and slash. Or the problem arises from limitations with the English language. And this is where we can all find ourselves struggling with. Who should I say why readers can struggle with what you have written. The words end and or simply don't cover all the logical permutations we need when writing. But what do I mean by this? Let's have a look at how software developers solved this problem. They have clearly defined what each of these terms mean end to complete the logic they have X or so end means both all means one or the other or both, and Excell simply means one or the other, but not both. Now, I'm not suggesting that you use these rules when you're writing an email will report, given that most people have never heard of Boolean Logic. Lethal Line What it is using X or is not going to ed clarity to your writing. But wait. We can, in most cases, get around the ambiguity of using end and or by being clever without lead sentences. You have seen this before. It's the bulleted list from earlier in this class, and the lead sentenced the phrase any off the following removes any ambiguity. Let's look at a simple problem with the sentence. Show me all the reading blueberries. What springs to mind for you? Were you thinking Show me all the Berries that are red or blow? Yeah, show me all the Berries that have both red and blue I could rewrite This is a standard sentence and that's okay or I could simplify it right down using bullets. Show me the following read Berries and blueberries. If I was to send an employee out to buy some reading blue cars, am I asking for some red cars and some blue cars, or cause that have a two tone color scheme of real and blue Ambiguity can lead to expensive mistakes being made here is another one. I wear a raincoat. Win it rains and snows. Does it rain and snow at the same time? I wear a raincoat when it rains or snows. Is this any clearer? I wear a raincoat on any of the following with the conditions rain, sleet, snow. That's a lot clearer. Here we have a range of ideas for lead sentences. The point here is that you use the lead sentence to clearly communicate the relationships between the items and the bullet points that are to follow is an exercise pause. The slide and heavy got rewriting the sex. Strict as a hunt, you can rewrite it with the lead sentence and bulleted list. Hall is a bulleted sentence. So how did you go? Here are two examples of what it could look like. The 1st 1 is written. It has a bulleted sentence. The second is written up is a bulleted list. So now we're onto the bonus exercise. Just kidding. This paragraph can be broken down into easy to digest tanks. If you want to pulls the listen, do it now and have a go rewriting all of it. So his account in so you can pause and give it a go. There is a lot happening here, we could pick out a check of information and converted to a bulleted sentence. However, the major change we're making here is to speak directly to the audience. If you have a legal background, this is an opportunity to try plain English. So here, guys to speak to the audience more directly. I'm using the words you to refer to the Raider and we to refer to the person who's the higher er. It's more direct and friendlier at the same time. We now have a clear hitting for this contract clause. Then we're straight into sitting. The expectations that's plain tend to the point. There is plenty of space around its trunk of information. Tend whoever is reading this doesn't need to read it multiple times toe work out what the writer is trying to say. 7. Bye: Hey, thanks so much for watching this class. I'm really glad you made it this far. Remember that as the writer, it's your job to do all of the work so that all your reader has to do is read it once together. And this is so vitally important in this day and age, when your audience receives a lot of correspondence, probably has a lot of reports to read, a lot of decisions to make. You know they've got their own day job to do so. If you're sending them something, make sure that what you send them is going to rise to the top of the Leicester. Tim. So what your audience wants to read. If you can gain a reputation for writing clear and concise correspondence and documentation , this increases the chances that what you write is going to be read, and that puts you ahead of the pack. So there's just three more things to do. One is to follow me on skills. Sheer to is to leave a review of this class, so please leave a review. It does help other students determined with this class is worth watching. Also, tell your friends so if you've got a lot of value out of this class, and you think some of your friends could improve on their correspondence or their reports, seeing them this way and tell them to watch this class. And the third thing is, please leave a comment in the discussions area below, particularly if you would like me to add more lessons to this class or if you would like me to create more classes along these lines. So if it's the start of the week, have a great week. If it's the end of the week, have a great weekend, and I hope to see you again one day. Not that I can actually see you, but you know what I mean?