Book review: Business Writing Tips

The prospect of reading and doing a book review about business writing did not score highly on my to-do list. And when I turned to part 1 to see the title with each word capitalized I was even less excited (sorry Robert, I’m an FT Style Guide kinda girl).  So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really did enjoy Robert Bullard’s Business Writing Tips.

As someone who has written a book – and faced many a blank page with no idea where to start – I would say that Bullard’s book is as useful for those just getting started as it is for seasoned writers.

Having started this post I am now experiencing extreme anxiety about my own writing abilities … be sure to let me know in the comments section below if you spot any clangers!

Back to the book. It is packed full of useful tips for honing your writing skills, and here are a few of my favourite takeaways:

  • I really like how Bullard explains the differences between academic and business writing. This may seem obvious to the experienced, but for new entrants to the world of business writing, this is an important lesson.
  • I love Bullard’s advice about the power of short sentences. It’s all too easy to fill a sentence with unnecessary fluff that ultimately buries your point. Question the value of every word.
  • Plan, plan, plan. There’s a lot more to writing than putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. It is crucial to consider your audience, your messages and your flow before you even write a word.
  • Sleep on it. Bullard doesn’t use these exact words, but he implies the value of taking time over your writing, and revisiting drafts several times. From personal experience, walking away from a draft for a day or two almost always refines my thinking on the topic, and allows me to improve the draft without too much effort.
  • Paper has a purpose. Whenever I need to proof-read something, my automatic reaction is almost always to print it out. It feels wasteful and old-fashioned, and I have berated myself about it frequently. But in his book, Bullard talks about using this technique himself. He articulates how I feel about it when he says, “Proofreading is about more than reading; it is about checking. And somehow, when a document is printed out in front of us, it heightens our critical attention, so we are more likely to spot any errors.” I couldn’t agree more! (Although I have lots of colleagues who prefer me to use track changes.)

Overall, I would give Robert Bullard’s Business Writing Tips 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is a useful, practical guide and I will recommend it to colleagues.

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