With the advent of new communication technologies and platforms, business writing in the 21st century has drastically changed. Regardless of your industry or occupation, there are certain things you’ll need to know as 2018 begins, if you want your business writing to remain effective.
Data Will Drive Your Business Writing
In 2018, every organization’s reliance on data will increase significantly, especially when it comes to business communications and reporting. According to The Economist, the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. And how each business decides to write about the hundreds of terabytes of data it encounters can make or break its success.
Data will drive:
- what you know about your audience
- what your audience wants to read
- what you know about your business and your competitors
- how you report and interact with all that information, and more
Essentially in 2018 and beyond, data will determine the integrity and merit of your written business documents and communications for all internal and external stakeholders. If you have faulty, incomplete, or outdated data, it will come through in how you write about it.
It Will Be More Important to Know Your Audience
Since there will be so much data and information you can gather about your target audience, writing specifically to and for them will be more important than it ever has been. You will need to gather as much demographic and psychographic information as you can about your audience, or your competitors will beat you to it. Whether you’re writing a white paper or user manual, there are other pieces of writing online that are competing for your audience’s attention. So your business communications need to be as compelling and engaging as any other type of content your business shares. Otherwise, you will lose your audience’s attention and acknowledgement as a thought leader and trusted resource in your industry.
You should know everything your ideal audience clicks on when they visit your website, what inspires them and interests them, what tone to use when addressing them, how they perceive your business within the broader context of your industry, etc. And you’ll need to know detailed information about what motivates them to become business partners, productive employees, or reliable vendors.
Learning How to Write for Different Mediums Will Be Critical
Until the past year or so, everyone has thought of online content as something that only millennials or digital marketers do. However, business writers of all generations and backgrounds need to start writing for different online mediums if they want their business content to meet the demands of the modern on-the-go business professional. They’ll have to learn how to write:
- Online press releases and time-sensitive information distributed on websites and in emails
- Business blogs (especially in the B2B space)
- Memos and reports inside collaborative business tools (e.g., project management platforms, talent management platforms, learning management platforms, and more)
- Updated information inside mobile platforms
- Posts for social media sites
- Website content
Organizational Skills Will Be in Higher Demand to Cater to Different Mediums
As you begin writing for various mediums for your business, you will undoubtedly end up writing about the same topics and information on a rolling basis at more rapid rates. For those reasons, you’ll want to structure your business reports and white papers (as well as any other long-form business content) in a way that makes them easier to cut down into smaller bits, so you won’t have to start from scratch with every piece of business content you write.
And you’ll want to organize all the data and research you gather in a central location too, so you can easily pull valuable business information any time you need to write about it. For instance, if you write a detailed and comprehensive white paper but you want to write about its key points in a shorter blog post, the blog post will be easier to write if the white paper is organized into sections with distinct sub-headers and data. And if you can easily locate the information in the white paper, you can share a compelling piece of data in the sentence or two you write to share it on social media and in internal memos.
Using Interactive Features and Excellent Graphics Will Be Essential
Of course, as a business writer, you should always be more concerned about what you’re writing, not about images and videos. But, the truth is, video and other visually appealing graphics drive the consumption of online business content too.
According to these statistics and this infographic, videos and images not only make it more likely that someone will view and engage with your content (about 80-90% more likely in most cases), they will also ensure your readers learn about and comprehend what you’re writing about, and that they act as you suggest (i.e., click on a report, fill out a survey, complete a work task, etc.).
Good writing is still essential in business, but accompanying it with interactive features (i.e., a sharing tool or a comments section) and graphics is the best way to ensure it’s viewed and understood. So, especially if you’re writing a data-driven white paper on a topic in your industry or a business blog post about a new trend, include visually appealing graphs and information or a short video.
Grammar and Citing Sources Is Still Important but Not All Grammar Will Be Created Equal
Good business writing will always be grammatically correct and contain well-cited sources.
Even if you’re pulling data from your own internal resources when writing reports and papers, be sure to cite where you acquired your information, as well as when you pulled it. And when publishing anything with data in its online or sharable format (e.g., email, social media post), you’ll want to be sure to cite all your sources as well. Otherwise, your business credibility could be at stake.
While you’ll want to be grammatically correct in your business writing and communications, you might deem it more appropriate to break some grammar rules if it makes your documents easier to scan on mobile devices, and easier to read on some mediums such as social media and business collaboration tools. Here are some grammar rules you might want to consider breaking in 2018:
- Never end a sentence with a preposition.
- Never begin a sentence with a conjunction.
- Never split infinitives.
Whenever in doubt about whether you should break a grammar rule to make your business writing more readable, consult a reliable proofreader.
Unquestionably, data and technology will drive business writing in 2018—how it’s written as well as how it’s consumed.