5 Business Writing Skills Every Job Applicant Should Master

Published: Oct 20, 2020

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Your ability to write effectively and convey your ideas will likely play a critical part in your career development. If you’re a good writer, you’re deemed to have critical thinking skills that are key to success in the workplace. Here are five business writing skills every job applicant should master, from those you can apply to writing resumes and cover letters to those you can use for writing reports and business proposals.

1. Learn how to structure an argument.

One of the most critical business writing skills to master is sharing your ideas and insights in a structured manner. The ability to structure a coherent and well-reasoned argument is a skill that professors and mentors seek to instill in you through your college education and, unsurprisingly, it’s a skill that most employers look for in an employee.

In your professional career, you will often need to explain your decisions and convince others that your courses of action were the right courses to take. This can happen on an almost daily basis, not only as you interact with clients and colleagues, but also when creating presentations or project proposals, which require an understanding of psychology and sales principles.

2. Convey your point succinctly.

According to some statistics, recruiters scan application documents for only six seconds before deciding if they are a good fit for a job. It’s not a lot of time.

Even at the start of your career, it’s important to convey your perspective quickly. These days, people don't often have a lot of time to read anything that belabors the point or buries the lede. When writing for any medium, you need to grab people’s attention. You need to be able to pick out the most critical points of your argument and present them in such a way that they can be easily identified and absorbed by your audience.

3. Always write for your audience.

The ability to adapt how you convey your point to your audience is an essential business writing skill you need to master. Tone often depends on the level of the person you're writing for - for example, when writing to a superior who you have never met, it’s best to use a professional tone. It's also important to adapt to your audience's level of comprehension. Is the person you're writing for a subject matter expert? Is there certain jargon that should be avoided, or that you need to take care to explain or contextualize?

Adapting your approach to your audience seems like it's just common sense. However, the ability to do so effectively requires practice. You need to consider how your audience talks, what phrases they use, and what motivates them to engage with your content.

4. Use the active voice.

If you want to engage a person with your writing, the active voice, as opposed to the passive, helps keep your writing succinct and communicates your message more clearly. Just look at the difference between these two sentences:

“X products were sold by my sales team in a span of X years.” 

“My sales team sold X products in a span of X years.” 

The second sentence not only sounds better, but it's far more direct because it uses the active voice. The subject, in this case, “my sales team”, acts upon the object. The good thing is that you can easily change from the passive to the active voice. It’s just a matter of being conscious about your writing.

5. Proofread your copy.

Whenever you’ve finished some writing, regardless of whether it’s an email or a cover letter, proofread the content. As I said earlier, this will help you catch any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes you may have made. 

Make sure you also proofread to ensure there’s a logic in what you’re saying. For instance, make sure the cause is the cause and not the effect. Your conclusions should also be based on logical premises. 

Run your draft through a grammar checker one last time. Most grammar checkers only check for grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes, so make sure you proofread your copy properly for logic.