Chatty blog posts and truncated tweets have their place in written communication, but the tone in business writing should be quite different. Tone is the total subliminal effect created by certain words and how they’re presented.
Anyone who’s ever received a letter from an attorney or other legal document knows the no-nonsense effect of short, succinct sentences and the choice of direct, unambiguous wording. On the other hand, the goal of an appreciative note to a valued client or customer would convey a very different tone and feel, created by longer, more relaxed phrasing and subdued wording.
The commandments of business writing include remaining professional, courteous, and self-assured, no matter who you’re addressing. Add to that the power of persuasion and the ability to generate interest when you’re creating promotional material.
Finding and engendering the appropriate tone in business writing is easier if you ask the right questions before you begin:
- What's my primary subject? Sometimes a clever angle can help maintain interest if you’re dealing with a dull, dry topic. That approach can backfire, however, if the subject is inherently serious. Don’t try to be witty when it just doesn’t fit.
- Who will read this? Consider the expectations and comfort zone of your target audience . A fast-paced tone punctuated with buzzwords and age-specific references might work for young adults but fall flat with mature executives.
- What’s my message? Most business writing incorporates a primary, fact-based message and an underlying secondary message. The latter communicates important information about your company, your mission, and your credibility. The tone of primary and secondary messages should agree and each should contain nothing that contradicts or undermines the other.
- What’s my company brand? Image building is important in business communication. The first impression of your brand is the one that will remain most prominent in the minds of the reader. Fine-tune your tone carefully to accurately reflect your business goals and values.