Crib Sheet of All Guidelines for Business Writing

1. Use an orderly writing process

2. Spill the beans at the beginning

3. End with next steps, stated with emphasis

3.1 Use periodic sentences, sentences which delay the main idea until the end of the sentence
3.2 Use concrete, active-voice verbs, as described below
3.3 Shorten sentences or, at least, shorten main clauses
3.4 Use parallelism for a series of like ideas
3.5 Put minor ideas in modifiers and main ideas in main clauses
3.6 Use precise words, words your reader can easily connect with

4. Use time to persuade

5. Write coherent paragraphs

5.1 Write clear topic sentences
5.2 Paragraphs are graphical elements
5.2.1 Beware of one-sentence paragraphs
5.2.2 Beware of overlong paragraphs

6. Pay attention to tone

6.1 Organize negative information carefully
6.1.1 Start by showing careful consideration
6.1.2 Give reasons
6.1.3 Say "no" if you must
6.1.4 Give the reader an alternative
6.2 Say what is, not what isn't
6.3 Remove hostile words
6.4 Avoid telling your reader what he or she thinks
6.5 State the facts forcefully but be cautious about interpretation
6.6 See quotation marks as red flags
6.7 Write to the TO: line, not to the copy list
6.8 Write full sentences when tone is an issue

7. Vary your sentence length and structure

7.1 Keep sentences under about thirty words, three lines or so.
7.2 Join and subordinate choppy ideas.
7.3 Tighten loose sentences.
7.4 Place modifiers carefully
7.5 Prefer standard sentence order

8. Use parallel structure for like ideas

8.1 When writing a lengthy series of similar ideas, use outline or bullet format, but do so only if the ideas fall naturally into parallel structure
8.2 Do not force unlike ideas into a structure that shows likeness
8.3 See repetitions of wording as clues about your ideas
8.4 If you can make things perfectly parallel, look for efficiencies such as tables, graphics, or ellipses
8.5 In a pairing or series of elements mismatched in length, try to put the shortest first and the longest last
8.6 Make sure that bullet points are in parallel form and parallel logic, even in Powerpoint presentations

9. Use the most precise vocabulary possible

9.1 Prefer the shorter, more widely known word
9.2 Reduce three clues to vagueness
9.2.1 Intensifiers like very
9.2.2 Qualifiers like somewhat
9.2.3 Not
9.3 Beware of vague connecting words and phrases
9.4 Reduce "the (noun) of" phrases to phrases with verbs
9.5 Distinguish between buzz words and technical language
9.6 Avoid certain well-known vague nouns and verbs
9.7 Make it simple

10. Be concise

10.1 Start with the idea of greatest importance to the reader
10.2 Reduce your statements to those only of interest to the reader
10.3 Reduce metadiscourse
10.4 Reduce redundancy
10.5 Reduce traditional wordy phrases
10.6 Reduce wordy adverbial phrases
10.7 Go on a which hunt
10.8 Collapse plodding explanations

11. Use concrete active-voice verbs

11.1 Reduce being verbs
11.1.1 Wordy transitions
11.1.2 He-is-a-man-who phrases
11.2 Reduce phrases in which it or there is hooked to the verb to be
11.2.1 Wordy hedges
11.2.2 Expletives of necessity
11.3 Reduce general-action verbs
11.4 Reduce passive-voice verbs

12. Reduce clutter

12.1 Avoid sign language in sentences; write words
12.2 Avoid telegraphic style
12.3 Write complete sentences, unless you are using outline or bullet format
12.4 Reduce your use of parentheses

13. Observe the conventions

13.1 Reference: Punctuation
13.2 Reference: Grammar
13.3 The most common problems
13.3.1 Prefer singular agreement for collective nouns
13.3.2 Make sure that they points to a stated plural noun
13.3.3 Beware of certain plurals that do not end in 's'
13.3.4 Use a colon only after a completed idea.
13.3.5 Spell out numbers one to ten
13.3.6 Limit your use of the -self words
13.3.7 Use a hyphen to join together compound adjectives
13.3.8 Use standard comma rules Prefer the serial comma, as in A, B, and C Use a comma after certain introductory elements
13.3.9 Use punctuation appropriately in relation to quotation marks
13.4 Glossary of grammatical terms

Courtesy of John Mercer Associates,