Business Writing Style Top Tip: Positive Language
Bestselling author and management consultant Tom Peters lauded the value of decency and grace in business communication at the American Express Open Business Forum. I so agree with him when he stated, “the business place should care precisely about the words we use.”
Business writing carries power. For example, the all-too-common phrase "no problem" is now often tossed off. Why deflect thanks with a negative response?
Imagine how your reader would feel if you used these alternative positive and gracious replies, instead of "no problem:"
- You are welcome.
- My pleasure.
- It was my pleasure.
- We're here to help!
- You're welcome.
- Thank you!
- Thanks for asking about our ...
- Thanks for the question, which helped me update our instructions.
- Of course!
- I'm glad to hear I helped.
- Thanks for letting me know I was helpful.
- Nice to know I helped.
- We appreciate your business.
- We appreciate your business, and I'm here to help.
Business Writing Style Positivity Checklist
State what you can do, instead of what you can't.
Positive: I'm open tomorrow at 2pm to review the proposal.
Negative: I'm booked tomorrow morning, so can't review the proposal until 2pm.
State your desired action, instead of the negative action.
Positive: Please leave the supply closet unlocked.
Negative: Please do not lock the supply closet.
Use the precise word "yes" in a response, rather than the imprecise "sure," "okay," or "yeah." (When I hear these words, I often anticipate a long-suffering sigh to follow.)
Positive: May I take next Wednesday off as a personal day? "Yes, a personal day on Wednesday fits the schedule well." For extra credit, add "Enjoy your day off!"
Negative: May I take next Wednesday off as a personal day? The response "okay" or other imprecise response can easily feel a bit begrudging.
Choose positive framing instead of negative.
Positive: Thank you for your request.
Negative: I received your request.
Focus on solutions instead of blame.
Positive: To complete your request, I will need...
Negative: You neglected to include xx in your request.
The implications are significant:
- Consultants will enjoy better client engagement.
- Sales people will gain trust and likeability.
- Customer service representatives will soothe agitated customers.
- Freelancers will better connect with clients.
- Business analysts will identify opportunities and gaps in a manner that fosters collaboration and improvement.
Managers and senior executives: you set the tone in your organization. If you want the benefits of positive business writing communication in your company, be sure to model this.