Business Writing Update

AgendaTimes change.

Hairstyles change, music changes, cars change, and even language changes. Business writing changes, too.

You may have learned how to do business writing a certain way, but that doesn’t mean it’s still the correct way, today. Some of the changes I like, some not as much, but we still need to keep up with the times. That means changing the way we are doing things, regardless of how we personally feel about the changes.

If we always took the stubborn, “I’ll never change” approach, we would never update our clothing (it’s not like you ever wear out your clothes, right?), our laws, or our technology. Are you still using an Underwood typewriter to create documents? Of course not. In fact, if we want to live in the past, then we should all still be happy to bring the boss “his” coffee and pick up his dry cleaning.

Here are some of the changes that have happened to business writing. If you didn’t know that these changes have occurred, this is a good time to update your business writing. If you did know about these changes, then this is a good reminder that you are current.

– Indenting paragraphs is no longer necessary. In school, I learned that we had to press the tab key with each new paragraph. Stop doing that now, because it’s a dated style.

– Justification (on both sides) is no longer necessary. I always found that square style of document ugly; it takes so many extra spaces to make the left and right line up perfectly. I was glad to get rid of that.

– Only one space after a period.

– The Oxford Comma is back in style. It basically means that within a list of three or more objects you place a comma between each item. For example, I like my sandwiches to have peanut butter, jam, and banana. Notice the comma before the and? That is the Oxford Comma.

– We no longer use th or rd when writing a date. For example, January 1, 2018, instead of January 1st, 2018. The meeting is on January 1.

– We no longer need to put our initials at the bottom of a letter indicating we were the one who typed or transcribed it. For example, /rs is no longer needed.

– Stop using outdated phrases such as “attached herewith please find enclosed.” If you wouldn’t speak like that, don’t write like it either. In fact, contractions (it’s, I’m, we’re) are fine to use in many instances, even in a professional document. Without them, letters can sound stilted or pretentious.

Keeping up our skills is why we attend training courses, read newsletters such as this one, and pay attention to the world at large.

I’m glad we don’t speak Shakespearean English, smoke in the office, or wear tie-dye anymore. As a professional, it’s important that we keep our skills current as well.

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