Flair in Business Writing

by Craig Shrives

How To Make Business Writing More Interesting

With business writing, you have two choices: make it short or make it entertaining (or both). In this lesson, we're going to discuss some techniques for adding some flair to your writing entertaining to make it more entertaining. By "entertaining," I mean interesting to read. The aim is to bring your writing to life in order to make it:
  • More memorable.
  • Easier to understand.
  • Less painful to read (i.e., less corporate or dry).

Literary Techniques for Business Documents

"Interesting to read" can be achieved using the following techniques:
"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking."
(British economist John M. Keynes, 18831946)

Keep It Serious!

Before you use any of these techniques, we need to discuss the dangers of trying to be too entertaining, especially if you're trying to be funny. Bear in mind that people work to pay mortgages, feed families, etc. Work is serious stuff. Therefore, there is a danger that drifting too far into the "creative writing" zone might come across as flippant. If your document comes across as flippant, it's toast.

If you decide to use some of these techniques to spice up your business writing, you must seek the approval of someone senior (e.g., the business owner) to include it in the paper. If you are a senior person or it's your business, you should go home, go to bed, return to work the next day, and check whether you think the creative technique is still appropriate. I am really talking about correspondence that goes upwards and outwards (i.e., to your bosses or to other companies and customers). You don't need to apply the same level of constraint for correspondence going sideways or downwards (i.e., to peers or subordinates), although you don't want your subordinates thinking you're trying to be a comedian.

One of the most-used, but not overused, sayings in the military is "Familiarity breeds contempt." That is always worth bearing in mind when considering the tone of correspondence going downwards.

Format, Word Choice, and Grammar

The effectiveness of your document will also be determined by the following:

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