Business Writing Tip #7

Follow your organisation’s style guidelines.

Take a look at this image. It may seem exaggerated but, sadly, I have seen documents that have been formatted in a similar way.

This kind of poor formatting often rears its head in business. People decide that if two fonts are good in a document (one for headings, one for body text), then three or four, or even five, must be better. They combine bold, underlining and italics to create text that is difficult to read, oftentimes then deciding that all caps will show that what they have written is really important.

Many organisations have style guidelines designed to make sure documents look clean and professional, and that their ‘brand’ is consistent.

If you organisation does not have style guidelines, think about creating some. Look at some documents that you think are well laid out and analyse their spacing, formatting, and use of white space. Also consider which version of English you are going to use and how you are going to write numbers. Is it ‘centre’ or ‘center’, ‘eleven’ or ‘11’? Then document the style and use it for your own documents.

Major media organisations often have their style guidelines available online and they can be an excellent starting point for you so you don’t have to develop guidelines from scratch.

Using a consistent style makes you look professional. The consistency becomes part of your brand image. Always remember that when you send something from work you are representing the organisation and its brand.

In case you missed them, you can download tips #1 to #5 here:

Business Writing Tips 1 – 5.


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