Bad business writing abounds. Often because not everyone in business is a writer.
You shouldn't be someone you're not. But you should understand that better writing means better chances of getting your message across to your audiences of clients, prospects, partners, future employers, employees and more. Better, more compelling writing can also inspire action on the part of your audiences -- even if the action is just reading all the way to the end.
1. Keep it simple. Subject, verb. Period.
In college, my news writing professor proclaimed I had the "gift of brevity," which I took as it was intended -- high praise. Resist the temptation to overwrite. Think of short, succinct sentences. All you need is a subject and a verb. Period. The rest is often fluff that gets in the way of your point.
2. Stick with first person and second person.
For your subjects, use first person (I, we) and second person (you). It's more approachable and less clunky than third person (he, she, they). First person offers the insider point of view. Second person brings your audience into your writing and gives you the chance to help, inform or entertain. Third person isn't as powerful as it is the outsider's point of view.
3. Use active verbs as much as possible.
It's hard to ban all passive voice -- the "to be" verbs (is, are, was and so on) -- but your writing will sound more interesting with more action. When you have completed a draft, go back and see where you can replace passive verbs with active verbs.
And when "to be" verbs makes sense, don't be afraid to use contractions. You should sound a little bit more like you talk; people use contractions in conversations.
4. Avoid adverbs.
Adverbs often prop up weak verbs, like "is" and "are." As an example, which sentence is better, stronger and more authoritative?
I am uniquely positioned to deliver public relations wins for my clients.
I deliver public relations wins for my clients.
I wrote more about my hatred of adverbs earlier this year. Stephen King shares the sentiment.
5. Consider using the simplest version of a word.
Going back to my concept of keeping it simple, let's discuss word choice. Simple is your best bet. Some examples:
"Use" works. No need for "utilize" or "leverage." And, please, not "lever."
Instead of having an "ideation session," you might "brainstorm."
Others might "retain" a receipt; I'd just "keep" it.
I favor "about" over "approximately" and "but" over "however."
Bottom line: It's about making it easy for the reader to digest what you are saying and remember your message.