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Business writing

Why read this? Business writing is a key way for you to connect with customers. You use it to communicate what you stand for and share engaging and relevant content. Read this guide to learn how great business writing boosts your marketing. Learn basic business writing principles like the importance of having a clear purpose and structure. And also learn the key processes you need like writing drafts and editing. 

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Business Writing

How this guide raises your game :-

1. Understand why and how to use business writing to boost your marketing. 

2. Learn the importance of purpose and structure in business writing.

3. Know how to use the process of creating drafts and editing for better business writing. 

Reading and writing are everyday parts of our lives, but most people don’t think about how they use them. 

But in business writing you have to. It’s more of a challenge to create, commission and critique writing that has to persuade customers to engage with, and buy your brand. 

That’s why the skill of business writing matters. It helps your brand stand out. It improves interactions with customers. And it encourages customers to buy your brand. And then to buy it again. 

So read on to learn the role of business writing for marketing. The importance of having a clear purpose and structure for your business writing.

And to finish, we outline the writing process, with a focus on editing and how it boosts your business writing.  

Fountain pen writing on lined page

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The role of writing for marketing

Business writing has a key role to play in 3 important areas of marketing.

First, your writing tone of voice and style is part of your brand identity. Your essence, values and personality come out in the words you say, and how you say them. What you write helps your identity stay consistent .

Then, you use business writing skills in many parts of your brand activation. Your advertising and on your website for example. You use writing to help deliver your communication objectives. 

And finally business writing runs through your customer experience. You use it to share information and engage customers at key interaction points. 

A triangle that shows business writing and marketing at the centre, with links to brand identity, brand activation and customer experience at each point of the triangle

Writing and brand identity

Our brand identity guide shows how your brand is made up  of intangible and tangible assets.

These are either mandatory (rules) or optional (playbook). Writing plays a key role in each of these.

Your target audience reads what you write about your brand, or on behalf of your brand and uses it as a way to position your brand. What you write defines what your brand is and what it stands for. 

Business writing about your brand brings to life intangible brand assets, both mandatory and optional. 

The way you write about your brand on your packaging, your website or in your advertising reinforces your essence, your values and your personality.

Brand identity asset classification examples

The way you write about your brand is called the tone of voice. Consistent use of this tone of voice creates mental associations for the reader. They recognise and remember what you sound like.

These associations should reinforce your brand identity. The words you choose, the way you structure those words and the way you link words together. Together, these create a tone of voice which customers “see” and “hear” in their minds. It’s as if you were talking directly to them face-to-face.

Let’s look at how this works with a quick example. 

Brand identity and tone of voice example

Let’s imagine you work for a business that sells children’s educational books and you work on Brand A.

You define your brand values as credible, authoritative and knowledgeable. Your target audience are parents who want their children to succeed in life through education and making well-informed choices. 

When you write for Brand A, your tone of voice needs to reflect these values.

With this tone of voice, you’re more likely to use facts, evidence and references to back-up what you say. Those reinforce the values of being credible, authoritative, and knowledgeable. 

Young Girl reading book

The structure of your business writing will be logical and well-thought out. The topics you cover will be substantial and tangible. You’ll tend to use longer sentences and longer paragraphs.

Now imagine, you instead work on Brand B.

Brand B also sells children’s educational books. But Brand B’s values are quite different. Brand B is fun, enthusiastic and exciting. The target audience for Brand B are parents who want their children to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading. They want to use education to stimulate their child’s creativity and imagination.

Different tones of voice

Two brands in the same industry. But different target audience and positioning. So, the writing tone of voice for Brand B will be different to Brand A.  

For Brand B, the words you choose will sound less serious. The sentences will be more playful. And shorter. The topics will talk more to emotions and imagination than cold hard reality. You’ll use words that are easier for the reader to understand. All very different to the facts and logic of Brand A’s tone of voice.

Example tone of voice - Brand A vs brand B

Let’s apply these two different tones of voice to an example writing task.

Look at the image of the girl reading in the picture. Imagine you’ve been asked to write about it for Brand A and Brand B.

Brand A version

For Brand A, as it has to reflect your brand values of credible, authoritative and knowledgeable, you might write something like this :-

This book increases the likelihood this girl will excel academically, because as the evidence shows, reading serves to improve cognitive function.

An example of two different brand tones of voice - Brand A example is credible, authoratitive and knowledgeable and has an average reading age of 21 to 22, Brand B is fun, enthusiastic and exciting and has an average reading age of 11 to 12

But if you analyse this sentence, you can see it’s fairly long and complex.

Using an online text analysis tool, we can see the sentence is 21 words long. It has 4 complex words, that’s words of 3 or more syllables. And its average syllables per word is 1.86. Complex words like ‘academically’ and ‘cognitive’, means this sentence requires a more advanced reading level to follow. (It has a low readability score).

Brand B version

But, jump over to Brand B, with its brand values of fun, enthusiastic and exciting, and it’s different. Your copy might read something like this :-

Shhhh! Imagination at work. Right now, this girl’s deep inside the dragon’s dungeon. She’s ready to take back the treasure that’s rightfully hers.

See the difference?

Here, we’ve written about the same picture, with almost the same number of words.

But we’ve broken it down into 4 separate sentences. It’s easier to read four short sentences, than one long one. We only have 2 complex words this time. And the average syllables are less at 1.43. (it has a high readability score).

Shorter sentences and shorter words helps ‘lighten’ the feel of the copy. Using informal language like shhhh and the exclamation mark, makes the copy feel more casual. It’s less formal and stuffy than the Brand A example.

That’s how you start to articulate the tone of voice part of your brand identity.

Brand guidelines

As per our brand identity guide, you should document the rules and playbook for the brand in a brand book.

You should include guidelines for copywriting in this brand book, and refer back to the brand values and personality. 

Ideally, include examples of Do’s and Don’ts to guide anybody who’ll write for your brand in the future.

Include examples of writing that’s acceptable and “on brand”, and examples that aren’t. Your goal is to get a consistent writing style in everything the brand does.

For example, show how formal or informal the language should be. You want to makes sure specific terms or names are used consistently. 

Brand identity book contents

Be specific. Think about how long you want sentences to be, for example . Do you aim for longer more complex sentences to show knowledge? Or shorter sentences to make the writing easier to understand?

Setting these writing rules makes sure your brand keeps a consistent tone of voice in all its business writing. You  apply these guidelines to all your brand activation activities.

Writing and brand activation

The second area of marketing where business writing makes an impact is in brand activation.

Writing plays a role in all parts of the marketing mix, but its biggest role is in the area of promotion. Promotion is how you communicate your brand, and at heart, writing is a communication skill. 

As per our marketing communication guide, the role of communication and promotions is to move customers though the brand choice funnel.

So, business writing as a part of marketing communications fits in here. The objective of most business writing usually relates stage of the funnel. 

The brand choice funnel - trust - aware - consider - trial - loyalty - repeat purchase

Trust and awareness

When you want to build trust and grab the attention of customers with advertising, you write advertising copy.  It’s about key messages you want customers to notice and remember.

This could be your origin story, for example. Or your credentials that prove you can do what you claim. You use headlines, slogans and short impactful pieces of writing that makes customers notice your brand.

Do this type of business writing badly and you risk losing your audience at the first hurdle. There’s many challenges and lots to learn. But do it well and great advertising copy raises the impact of all your brand activation. See our advertising copy guide for more specifics on this particular business writing skill.

Consideration

While advertising is great for grabbing the attention of your audience, the job of persuading them to actually buy your brand usually requires more than a snappy line of advertising copy. 

For example, when you write educational or entertaining blogs to engage your target audience. The marketing benefits of blogging  are all about interacting with customers and reinforcing your positioning and brand identity. A good blog experience makes customers think more highly of your brand. 

(See our writing blogs guide and our editing blogs article for more on blogs). 

Writing for search

There’s also a related skill to blog writing which is writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

You do keyword research is a secondary research skill to understand what people search for online. You write about those topics so you show up in search rankings. 

SEO writing also has a connection to marketing technology. You use tools like Yoast or SEMrush to make it more likely your writing will show up on search engines.

Because for your business writing on websites and online stores to have an impact, customers need to be able to find it when they search for it. 

Google hone page on a Samsung phone lores

Trial and loyalty

Finally, unless you talk directly to the purchaser, your business writing also needs to persuade your target audience to try and buy your product. In e-Commerce in particular, you need your product page copy to persuade the customer to buy. There are many ways to do this. See our sales copy guide for more on this.

But it’s not just one sale you want. It’s repeated sales to loyal customers. You want them to come back again, and again. The best customers stick with your brand because they trust you to meet their needs. 

A big part of creating this loyalty is the ‘conversation’ you have with these customers via CRM activities like e-mails and social media. You need good business writing skills to write for these loyal customers and maintain their good customer experience. 

Writing and customer experience

The final marketing area where writing plays a role is  the customer experience. Similarly to brand activation, it also tries to move customers through a journey.

But, there are more specific business writing jobs to be done at each stage of the customer experience compared to brand activation. 

This might be the call to action on your advertising copy for example. The call to action is a clear statement of what you want the reader to do next. Visit your website. Click this link. Visit our store. Contact us.

Good business writing skills focus on making this key element crystal clear to improve the customer experience.

Customer Experience Journey Map

Think about what your website does for customer experience for example. And how business writing skills can help make the experience of a visit better. There are many interactions the customer might have with your website that aren’t about buying,  but which make their experience better.

For example, clearly written privacy policies and terms and conditions pages help customers decide if you’re trustworthy and credible. Well written Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) can take away the hassle of having to contact you directly.

So, we’ve covered what business writing does for you. How it helps you with your brand identity, brand activation and the customer experience. But now we need to think amore about what  business writing does for your target audience.

Writing for your target audience

The most successful business writing understands the target audience and what they need. When the writer is clear what the reader needs, they write more relevant content. Content that entertains the reader, or solves an issue or problem. 

Relevance is key when it comes to whether customers will read your writing. Customers only read what they think’s relevant to them. So, good business writing is written with the target audience in mind. You aim to write something that’ll make your reader think, feel or do something different. 

Writing a customer persona is a great way to get to this level of understanding.

You populate this persona with marketing data taken from your market research, and from the segmentation, targeting and positioning process. It visually bring to life what the target customer looks like and what they need. 

From a business writing point of view, this persona informs the type of content and style of writing you use. You write with this specific reader / customer in mind.

It makes your writing more efficient, more effective and more impactful. It’s clear who the writing is for and what it needs to say and do. 

Customer Experience Personal Template Blank.001

The purpose of your business writing

Each piece of writing you create needs to fit back to some part of your brand purpose. That’s usually one more of your brand identity, brand activation or customer experience goals. Does your writing need to make your audience think more positively about your brand for example? Is it to inform or influence the reader, so they think, feel or do something differently? Or, is it just to make an experience easier or better for the customer?

If you don’t know what your writing is for, then your audience probably won’t know either. For every piece of business writing, be clear why the reader should care about it. Why would they give up their time to read it? What’s in it for them?

The value of reciprocity

When you write for your target audience with their needs and wants in mind, you’re giving them something of value. That could be information or an entertaining experience. And in return, they give you their time. The time they spend reading your writing. So, think about what you want the outcome of the reader’s time reading to be.

There’s a reciprocity in the interaction between your writing and the customers. (see our behavioural science article for more on reciprocity). You want them to think or do something after they’ve read your piece. If they don’t, it’s a ‘dead end’ from a customer experience point of view.

Good business writing doesn’t have dead ends. 

Meet the needs and solve their  problems. Leave them with a better opinion of your brand or a clear next step (call to action) to move down the brand choice funnel. You can define what you’re trying to do in the communication brief.

The communication brief

Writing takes times. You need to plan ahead when you create or commission a piece of writing.

It helps when you put some structure into the task of business writing.

If it’s part of a bigger project like new advertising or a website, you’ll already have written a communication brief to summarise the objective and intent of the project. 

But even a stand-alone writing project, say a blog or article can benefit from having a clear brief.

The brief covers 5 key areas that help set the writing within the context of your business and brand. 

Marketing Communication brief - blank template

Key areas of the brief for business writing

The brief covers key areas of your brand identity like the essence, values and personality. As we showed above, these influence the tone of voice of the writing. The brief also covers the business, marketing and communication objectives. These set the goals and measures for the piece of writing. What’s the change in thinking, feeling or doing you need as an outcome from the writing? How will you evaluate the impact?

The brief also covers the rationale. These are the reason why and reason to believe that support the key message or messages. What evidence sits behind the message or messages the writing needs to land?

And finally, the brief sets the specific project scope of the writing. How long does the writer have to complete the piece? What’s the budget for writing it? And who has overall approval of the end result? 

From a business writing point of view, there’s a few extra things to consider in a writing specific brief. For example, what’s the media context of where and how the writing will be read? What limits does this impose on the writing? Are there specific touchpoint considerations that will impact the writing? 

Static written content

If the writing is for a printed advert for example, you’ll have limited space to work with on the page or poster. It’ll need to fit around photography and / or graphic design elements.

You’ll likely have a minimum and maximum word limit if it’s part of a media campaign with a fixed space. And even if it’s on your own website, you may still have word count limits depending on how your Content Management System (CMS) works.

Spoken video content

If your business writing is spoken as part of video content, then you have to consider how it sounds when read aloud. (as opposed to written on the page or on a screen).

Viewers have short attention spans. Business writing that ends up in video content needs to be concise, attention-grabbing and distinctive.

It needs to sound natural and not stilted or awkward.

You’ll need to keep your sentences short so it’s easy to for listeners to process each sentence.  

You need to think more about the rhythms of speech and how the words sound. 

Boy with short hair shouting into microphone in a plain white room

Writing for specific touchpoints

Business writing that goes on packaging will also have space limits. And you’ll also likely have to include mandatory legal text about the products too.

For example warning statements and contact information. Some categories like food or medicine also mandate use by dates, ingredients and nutritional information. 

For certain website pages like your privacy policy and terms and conditions, you need to make sure the business writing is crystal clear. You have to write in a way that protects the interests of customers and your business. 

A clear writing purpose helps you define where you want the reader to end up. It helps you define the expected business writing outcome. Once you have the purpose, you then move on to the structure of the writing. These are the steps in the path your reader needs to follow to reach that end destination. 

The importance of structure in writing

The most basic writing structure is the three-step process of the beginning, the middle and the end.

In simple terms, the beginning is the first thing the reader sees. The end is the last thing the reader sees. And the middle is everything else.

It’s not exactly rocket science. But drill down, and it’s soon clear each part has a very different role to play.

The beginning

The first thing your reader sees is clearly important. It decides whether they’ll keep reading. It sets the tone and expectations for the rest of the content.

In marketing and e-Commerce, it’s particularly challenging. Customers see and hear thousands of advertising and sales messages every day.

Your writing needs to stand-out and cut-through the noise from all the competing writing out there.

If it doesn’t, it’ll end up ignored. No-one will ever see it.

In the past you may have had 30 seconds to land your message in a TV ad. Now, the average viewer decides in the first few seconds whether an advert is relevant.

Three stones stacked on top of each other to show balance

We’ve seen a huge increase in recent years of 6 second advertising thanks to You Tube. That’s 6 seconds to land your message. If you assume 2 words per second, that means you need to land your message in twelve words or less, That’s eight words LESS than the sentence you’ve just read.

Make an impact right away

So, when you write, particularly for advertising, you need your opening sentence or statement to capture attention. To make an impact. Make it clear to the reader what they’ll get from reading it. Will it inform them so they can solve a problem? Will it entertain them, so they have a great experience? 

The beginning of every piece of business writing needs to make a definitive statement. Don’t be hesitant or unclear. 

Be bold. 

Be creative. 

Make it clear what the reader can expect. Make it clear why the reader should read more. 

The end

So, we’ve deliberately skipped over the middle section, because in terms of importance, the end is the second most important part of the writing structure. It’s what the reader is most likely to remember afterwards.

You want the end of your writing to wrap up key points you’ve made in the middle. But end with a clear, simple outcome. 

And if the purpose of the writing needs the reader to then think, feel or do something different, make sure the end of the writing makes that call to action easier to happen. 

If it’s a click or a link to a website for example, make sure that naturally flows from the end of the writing. If it’s a specific behaviour, then use the end of the writing to encourage the reader to act on that behaviour. 

Good endings are important in business writing. 

The middle

It seems obvious to say the ‘middle’ of the writing structure is what links the beginning and the end. But don’t undervalue it.

It’s important too. It’s where the biggest quantity of writing in terms of words, ideas and concepts sits. But because of that, it’s also the area where if you don’t get it quite right, there’s less obvious impact. It’s more forgiving of getting it wrong. Because there’s more writing there. Good points can cover minor bad points. 

Think about the key points you need to land during this middle section. It often helps to write an outline of these points. This outline should list the key points in an order which feels natural to the reader. When you do this outline before you write the detail, it gives the middle section a sense of order and logical progression from one point to the next. It stops you writing a rambling series of unconnected points that don’t link back to the goal.

Because, that happens a lot. 

We know from experience. 

Writing drafts and editing

All professional writing is an iterative process. It starts with writing a first draft and ends with a completed document.

This draft is first reviewed and critiqued in a stage of editing. An editing stage tightens up the draft and adds improvements to make the writing sharper, clearer and more impactful. This draft – editing loop usually has several rounds before the writing is approved. 

This draft – editing process improves the quality of the writing. It’s a tough and detail-focussed skill. It takes thinking and experience to work out how to improve the writing. But before that, it all starts with the first draft. 

Write your first draft long

Having a clear purpose and brief is a good start to the business writing process. But you still need to start putting words on the page. And that isn’t always easy. It’s not always clear how and where to start.

Sometimes, the words will just flow. Ideas sparked in your head from the purpose and brief. But other times, there’s the horror of the blank page. The horror of the mental block and nothing coming to mind.

It doesn’t really matter either way. Because your sole job in the first draft, is just to get something down on paper. Something. Anything. Because here’s a golden rule of writing that not everyone knows. 

First drafts will be rubbish

Yep, the first draft is usually a stinker. Clunky, horrible and full of mistakes. But the second drafts improves that first draft. And subsequent drafts improve the quality and impact further. So, whatever comes out at the first draft stage, doesn’t matter too much. You’ll improve it. And a rubbish first draft is still better than a blank page. 

The whole point is editing and re-drafting makes the writing better. There’ll be a sweet spot in terms of the number of drafts where you just can’t make it any better. But to get started, just write something down that’s at least vaguely in the direction of your writing objective. 

You’ll often find once you start the first draft, it’s like breaking a dam. You’ll suddenly find words, ideas and concepts pouring out, until you can do no more. And then you’ll read back what you’ve written and realise it’s (a) probably too long for what you need and (b) the structure of what you’ve written isn’t doing what you need it to do. 

And that’s good. Because that’s where editing comes in. 

Editing is the skill that makes your business writing next level

Writing the words on the page is really only the first half of the skill of writing.

Editing those words so they ‘fit’ together properly takes writing to the next level. When you can edit writing so it flows, inspires and informs, it takes that rubbish first draft and polishes it into something more valuable.

The aim of the editing process is to refine writing through correcting, connecting and simplifying where possible. 

Correct

At the very basic level, editing lets you go back and correct spelling and grammar mistakes.

You should check all the points make sense and you haven’t contradicted yourself. Anyone who ‘s written a first draft and then gone back and read it later will recognise all these common quality issues in a first draft.

Connect

But editing when you have version of the full piece of writing, also then helps you connect pieces together better.

In the first draft, you don’t know for sure what the end will be.

When you edit the first draft into the second draft though, you do know what the end will be. You can refer to what’s coming more easily, or give hints if you want to create a sense of intrigue.

Write without fear

Simplify

And finally, editing simplify the writing as much as it can. When you read something, your brain’s in an active state. It takes energy to read. That’s why you rarely read a book from beginning to end, unless it’s very short. There’s only so much reading your brain can handle in one stint. So to make it easier for the reader, the more you cut down your writing, the easier you make it to read.

It’s draining to read long sentences, with fancy words. Shorter sentences and simpler words are easier to process. (see our readability article for more tips like this). 

Editing tips

Whether you edit your own writing or you’re approving a piece of writing from an agency, build these habits of correcting, connecting and simplifying. Simplifying in particular is where the editor often adds the most value.

When you edit, consider if there’s a simpler word you can use. Can you cut words and still have the same meaning? The shorter and punchier you can write to land a key message, the better for your reader. That’s not to say you should always aim for short words and sentences. Your brand identity might suit a more verbose and academic style.

But as a general rule of thumb in business writing, shorter is better. And editing is the key skill, that gets you to short and impactful writing.

No-one will thank you when you use long words and over-elaborate sentences to show off your knowledge.

Active voice

Try also to write in the active voice rather than the passive voice where possible. it keeps sentences shorter and sounds more confident and dynamic.

Your sentence structure should be subject-verb where possible. This is much more readable. Look for variations of “is”, “are” and “were” attached to other verbs. These are often signs of the passive voice. See if you can flip the order round to make it more active.

Kill adverbs appropriately

You should also take care with adverbs. Adverbs are often not needed in business writing. Unless they change the meaning of the verb, try to avoid them. Look for words that end in “ly” and question if they add value to the sentence. If the sentence still means the same without it, kill the adverb. No-one will miss it. 

This editing skill to go back and rearrange take words out can be a challenge. Especially, it you write and then edit your own work. You get attached to words. They’re your words, your creation. You want to protect them.

It’s always a good idea to get someone else to read your writing and help with the editing. Get a different viewpoint and perspective. Professional editors can be invaluable sources of feedback to raise your writing game. It’s usually what separates average writing from great writing. 

Conclusion - Business writing

In this guide, we covered where to use business writing in marketing to grow your brand.

It has many uses across brand identity, brand activation and customer experience. Great business writing attracts and engages audiences. It persuades customers to buy, and to stay loyal to your brand.

We covered why having a clear purpose for the writing helps you to focus the writing process on creating relevant content. And why then having a good structure or outline for your messages helps you take the reader towards that end purpose or goal.

Man writing blue shirt

Then finally, we outlined the basic process of writing. Where you start with a first draft  you know will need more work. And how editing adds value and improves the quality of your writing. Drafting and editing to make your business writing clear and concise is very important. It’s the difference between writing that rocks and writing that sucks. 

You know which of those outcomes you want.  

Three-Brains and writing skills

The Three-Brains team know a lot about the skill of writing. We work with businesses like yours to improve writing skills to create more impact with customers. How to get better writing out of freelance writers and marketing  agencies for example. And how to improve the effectiveness and clarity of your own business writing. 

Check out our coaching and consulting services to learn how we can help you. Contact us directly, if there’s specific business writing skills you need help with.

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