How to improve business writing
    with the secret weapon of online writing assistants
     

    Nobody’s born a great writer — especially not a great business writer. Sure, they might be born with high intelligence, the capability to learn faster than others, and the gene for effective communication skills. 

    Instead, business writing skills are learned, cultivated, and improved upon over time, and it’s never too late to take your skills to the next level. For that matter, what’s considered to be great business writing has evolved over time. Yesterday’s long-winded, academic-style business papers are not today’s headline-making, results-driving reports.

    The good news is that you’re more likely to become a great writer in the business world today than ever before. Why? For one, in the Internet Age, people are expected to be more prolific — and practice is one of the best ways to improve your writing skills. Secondly, today’s technological advances do nothing but optimize your ability to write like the best of them, while saving time in the process.

    The history and evolution of writing assistant apps

    Gone are the golden days when businesses enjoyed the luxury of an in-house staff who relieved the burden of writing for executives and business managers. As MadMen depicted, writing, editing, and proofreading was the duty of secretaries and copywriters. 

    Sure, we’ve seen an emergence of companies that place a high business value on content (Marriott being a shining example). Other businesses rely on ghostwriters and content agencies to produce their business thought leadership content, ebooks, blog posts, and newsletters. 

    And now that high-quality marketing content and business communications is increasingly important, it’s become commonplace for employees to write all of their own material, which is why 73% of employers want a candidate with strong written communication skills, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

    As more organizations expect their employees to write and edit nearly as well as professional writers, they’re willing to invest in modern technology and online writing assistant software like Writer to fuel the process. It’s more efficient for employees to produce their own communications and refine as they go along than to go through several rounds of good old-fashioned writing, editing, proofreading, and iteration just for, say, a sales email.

    Writing and editing tools have come a long way from the first English language spell checker program in the early 1970s, and auto-correct, which was invented by Dean Hachamovitch at Microsoft in the 1990s. Before spell check systems existed, only educated people could identify writing mistakes, and fixing spelling errors was entirely dependent on human intelligence.

     

    The future is now. How AI writing assistants improve how people write at work.

    Whether you realize it or not, AI has become part of everyday life — auto-correct when you’re texting, Google’s suggested edits in Gmail, etc. AI writing technology has improved since Grammarly, and companies like Writer are leading the way with AI catered specifically to business writing. Professional AI writing assistants like Writer help people not only write better at work but scale their writing processes, save time, and reduce stress that comes with wondering if your writing sounds good enough.

    Writer’s grammar corrector now uses neural seq2seq. The new deep learning model, combined with Writer’s proprietary training and evaluation datasets based on native speakers, has already been outperforming leading grammar correction tools.

    What are the top AI writing assistant features as of 2020?

    Identifying and correcting spelling and grammar mistakes is now considered the baseline of grammar checkers. Here are the new advanced capabilities that Writer offers:

    • Distinguishing between different writing styles and voices
    • Identifying misuse of words that mean different things
    • Finding ways to change the style of writing to be more consistent / on-brand without changing the meaning
    • Plain language checker
    • Clarity and readability grades
    • Inclusivity
    • Terminology
    • Plagiarism
    • Security Single sign-on (SSO)
    • Plug-ins
    • And more!

     

    What is the value of good business writing?

    Why do the details of good business writing matter? Why should you care about whether your business writing is considered high quality? These are the two main reasons:

    Good writing can make the difference between getting your foot in the digital door or getting deleted upon your first impression.

    Just as public speaking skills can make or break a live presentation, so too can writing skills make the difference between getting your foot in the door, standing out from the competition, and closing a deal. People are increasingly making judgements about you on the Internet — via email, Google searches, blog posts, in social media, etc.

    As you’ve probably heard before, “clear writing is clear thinking.” In essence, if you’re able to clearly and confidently communicate your key points, you’re more likely to verbalize your points in person and execute on your business goals.

    Don’t just take it from us. Take a nod from Warren Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and one of the world’s wealthiest business people. You’ve probably already heard that Buffett spends the bulk of his time reading and researching. Did you know he’s also an excellent writer?

    As Nancy Friedman explains in Writing Lessons From Warren Buffett’s Annual Reports, Buffett takes time to write his own annual reports, which are a million times better than Berkshire Hathaway’s site design. 

    Whether he’s writing a business report or giving an interview, Buffett gets to the point and often makes a memorable impact or tells an interesting story in the process. He’s famous for having written: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” As Friedman sees it, “that’s an entire business philosophy in 12 words. Few mission statements, no matter how labored over, convey as much essential information.” That’s owed to Buffett’s writing ability.

    Good writing can often make or break whether Google deems your content “high quality.”

    Whether or not you’re familiar with how SEO works, we can summarize by saying that the Google search algorithm has become smart enough to know the difference between a “bag of words” and quality information that people should rely on. With consumers performing more than 3.5 billion Google searches a day, most businesses deem their Google search ranks a key performance indicator of their business success.

    Google values well-written, well-researched content from reputable sources and is smart enough to recognize poor quality writing when it crawls it.

     

    5 ways to improve your business writing style

    1. Focus on your readers’ needs

    Your audience will dictate so much of how your message is conveyed, so you must understand who they are and what they need. Your message should focus on them, their needs and wants, rather than your own. That way, they’ll have something to grab hold of, and act on, if that’s the goal.

    2. Cut to the chase in business writing: Focus on clarity over quantity

    Clarity is easily muddled when it comes to the written word, but there are a few ways to easily and quickly address this aspect of business and professional writing.

    Avoid jargon and overusing acronyms

    Jargon can easily creep into both your written and spoken words. And while it can make conversations a bit faster when speaking with others who are well-versed in your field, business jargon can create confusion with those who aren’t. Again, you have to be aware of whom you’re talking to, and make a judgement call.

    Shorten and simplify sentences 

    Edit the length of your sentences is one of the most effective ways to hone the clarity of your business communications. For example, you may write “as a result” when “because” is just as accurate. Keeping each sentence to one idea can also help you avoid confusing the reader with run-ons or convoluted compound sentences.

    While you’re at it, be sure to look for holes in the context or message — like places where you took a logical leap, or forgot to include information about how something is relevant to the main topic. That way, each sentence and paragraph can support the others in creating a coherent message.

    3. Streamline structure and organization

    Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin with business communications, especially if you’ve got pages and multiple decks of business research, analysis, and creative ideas. In general, it’s best to focus on a primary idea or topic. This prioritization helps you set expectations for the reader and get to the point without delay.

    As a baseline, you should include things like transitions from paragraph to paragraph, or sentence to sentence, to make the words themselves flow more easily. You’ll want to take a top-line approach to the organization, too, if you want your words to be more absorbable.

    Break a lengthy email or document into smaller sections

    Just as we’re doing in this blog post, we suggest organizing business writing into sections with subheadings and highlights of important information. Include formatting such as line breaks, headers, and short paragraphs to make lengthy copy scannable. 

    Visually friendly formatting is especially important when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t necessarily have to listen to you, like a prospective client who may not have a lot of time to devote to reading emails.

    Again, making it easier for them to understand your writing can help you achieve your goals.

    4. Fine-tune your tone and business writing style

    The way that a piece of business or professional writing makes a reader feel is important, too. A professional and friendly tone helps foster a sense of congeniality between yourself and your clients and coworkers.

    Formal is not necessarily the same thing as professional 

    Example of formal phrasing: “Report to me at your earliest convenience.”
    vs.
    Example of professional yet less formal phrasing: “Stop by when you have a minute to chat.”

    Both of these statements convey the same general message, but the tone is different, due to word choices and their connotations. The first statement relies on formal phrasing, and potentially implies a difficult conversation ahead. 

    The second example sounds friendly and less formal, but still professional. The way you say the things you need to say is important, and it can dictate everything that follows. If you’re not sure how your writing will be perceived, try reading it aloud — what would you think if someone sent you the same statement?

    5. Use an active, human voice

    Every English teacher has spouted off one time or another about the virtues of writing with an active voice. And they’re right. As a quick refresher, active voice is when the subject of a sentence acts on the verb. Passive voice, on the other hand, is when the subject is acted upon by the verb. 

    Example of using active voice in business writing:
    She wrote the business report.

    Example of using passive voice in business writing:
    The business report was written by her.

    In these examples, “she” or “her” is the subject and “wrote” or “was written” is the verb. Using an active voice helps with clarity, and is a more effective way to convey information in business communications.

    Avoid “robotic” business language

    People prefer business writing that sounds like it was written by a human being, not a robot. That means using contractions and sticking to your usual vocabulary. You might think it’s necessary to elevate your prose in order to sound more professional, but your words can easily come off as stilted, and it’s not really necessary to be professional. 

    Read more tips in “How to improve your business writing style.” 

    What is the future of AI writing assistants?

    Carol Valdez, Principal UX Writer for Amazon Customer Service of Amazon, relies on AI to help scale the words she writes for millions of customers who shop on amazon.com. In essence, she has a lot of pressure on her shoulders to make sure that every single word that she and her team writes is not only well-written, but is understood and makes customers feel valued. Her team thinks very carefully about the quality of their writing before finalizing it for use in online chat boxes, voice boxes on the phone, and more.

    Does she worry about artificial intelligence replacing her work as a writer? Not at all.There will always be some unmet need that requires specialized human help,” she says. “AI thrives on patterns, but there are spaces where there aren’t patterns to draw from — there will always be space for people to be part of the loop.” 

    Besides, she says, “Who wants to be the grammar police if you can do the cool stuff?” Carol appreciates how AI helps her get her job done well so that she can focus on more challenging tasks.

     

    What is the future of AI writing assistants?

    Carol Valdez, Principal UX Writer for Amazon Customer Service of Amazon, relies on AI to help scale the words she writes for millions of customers who shop on amazon.com. In essence, she has a lot of pressure on her shoulders to make sure that every single word that she and her team writes is not only well-written, but is understood and makes customers feel valued. Her team thinks very carefully about the quality of their writing before finalizing it for use in online chat boxes, voice boxes on the phone, and more.

    Does she worry about artificial intelligence replacing her work as a writer? Not at all.There will always be some unmet need that requires specialized human help,” she says. “AI thrives on patterns, but there are spaces where there aren’t patterns to draw from — there will always be space for people to be part of the loop.” 

    Besides, she says, “Who wants to be the grammar police if you can do the cool stuff?” Carol appreciates how AI helps her get her job done well so that she can focus on more challenging tasks.