Improve Business Writing Skills by Measuring What Matters

Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published February 3, 2016, updated June 26, 2017
Improve Business Writing Skills by Measuring What Matters
Table of Contents
Table of Contents



Business leaders understand the importance of "good business writing" skills and can differentiate good writing from bad. However, in order to improve your team's business writing skills, it's essential to actually measure business writing skills to develop metrics to track improvement.

Defining the right measurements allows you to assess the current business writing performance level of your team and helps improve business writing skills accordingly.

Here are three steps measure your employees’ business writing skills

1. Separate Substance and Syntax Measurement

The first step is to measure the substance and syntax of the document separately. These are two distinct aspects of a document that are unique to business writing. The document can have good substance that is poorly worded. Conversely, a poorly worded document can lack substance.

Always remember that in business writing, substance precedes syntax. A document that has perfect syntax but meaningless substance is still going to fail to convey information. More worrisome, it may lead readers in the wrong direction, wasting time and potentially introducing risk and cost implications.

2. Analyze Substance of a Typical Document

Once you are able to differentiate between substance and syntax, the next step to improve business writing skills of your employees is to specifically analyze the substance of your documents.

There are five crucial elements to substance that differentiate good business writing from bad.

These include:

  1. Awareness of audience
  2. Correct content for audience needs
  3. Logically categorizing that content
  4. Sequencing the content logically
  5. And, of course, good style, tone, and grammar.

Once you break down the substance according to these 5 elements, it becomes easier to assess the document and the skills of the writer. Using this baseline, you can identify writing gaps and deficiencies, thus informing business writing training emphasis.

3. Analyze Syntax

Syntax is the last measurement step in analyzing the team's writing skills. Syntax is actually easier to measure and correct than substance errors. Employees who possess strong analytical skills – who often work in engineering, scientific, and finance positions  are naturally adept at integrating multiple concepts. This typically translates into strong substance. However, not all employees with analytical skills will also have clear syntax skills. But, it's easier for those employees with stronger analytical skills to quickly and easily improve business writing skills because they possess the raw requisite skills.

The concept of measurement is just as important in writing as in any other field. Using these steps, you can access the performance levels of your employees' business writing skills. However, do know that measurement alone is not enough. Measurement is just the start to better writing. Once you identify the gaps, you can then start the improvement process.

Download my eBook, “Four Steps to Improve Your Team’s Business Writing Skills" to learn more about helping your employees write better at work.

Or, schedule a complimentary consultation with a business writing expert to receive specific recommendations for your team.

Schedule a Consultation




Mary Cullen
Post by Mary Cullen
Originally published February 3, 2016, updated June 26, 2017
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.