What are the First Steps in Creating a Business Document?

Haley Larsen
Post by Haley Larsen
Originally published February 16, 2022, updated August 11, 2023
What are the First Steps in Creating a Business Document?

When it comes to any writing project, the hardest part is usually getting started. So what are the first steps you take when you’re creating a business document? Don’t get stuck in writer’s block! 

No matter what kind of project it is, or what business genre it requires, the following framework will help you identify your audience, consider your delivery or presentation method, and begin brainstorming. Use these tips to get started on your next business writing project.

Three easy steps in creating a business document

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1. Identify your audience

The first step in creating a business document requires you to consider your audience. Always. 

As you build an awareness of your audience, consider the dimensions of your project. You may have multiple audiences you’re serving with your content, from in-house teams or managers or bosses to external audiences such as current and potential customers, and business owners. 

To help you write in a focused way, identify the most specific audience you can. This will not only help you write a more focused final draft, but it will also help you narrow down your brainstorming to manageable topics and themes.

hands typing the first steps in creating business documents on laptop

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There are two primary questions we need to ask for every document we write at work, whether it is a simple email or a complex report:

  1. Who is my reader? (Or, readers?)
  2. What do I want them to know or do?

If you can’t answer these questions, stop! The document has no purpose. You must identify the purpose before going forward.

For in-house teams, this might mean focusing on the needs of specific stakeholders, such as the executive who’ll make the ultimate decision or the leadership team who needs to give their approval. 

For external audiences, you may need to collect market research or insights from other teams—such as your sales unit or analytics specialists—to help you narrow down your work so it can most effectively reach the right people. You might need to increase your company knowledge of the audience, reviewing things like their

  • Business goals
  • Business strategy
  • Company processes

The depth of analysis depends on your audience. 

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2. Consider your delivery or presentation method

Now that you know your audience, it’s time to dive into genre or medium. What format will make the best sense for your audience? Will they be consuming information via presentation? Over a video call? On their own, through a series of email attachments or Google Docs? 

It’s important to consider the context in which your business document will be met so that you can put your best work forward. Ask yourself questions like:

  1. Does my audience need any background information so they can make a decision?
  2. What ideas or progress do I need to summarize to help contextualize this project?
  3. What kind of results or responses am I hoping to receive? 

As you brainstorm these questions, you’ll likely start to narrow in a bit more on your audience and on the formatting decisions—the document genre or medium—that will best help you to meet your goals.

3. Brainstorm without blocks

Because you’ve spent time thinking about your audience and the type of delivery that meets their needs and yours, you should have a much easier time giving shape to your ideas for this project. 

In business writing, the audience always determines what information is needed. 

Whether you’re drafting a team email, drafting a report, or writing a letter or memo, you now have all the pieces in place to really brainstorm without writer’s block. 

To help pinpoint your exact message and goals, ask questions like:

  1. What is the most important thing to me?
  2. What is the most important thing to my audience?

Dig deeper, and ask yourself more subtle considerations about these readers. Consider if the document is internal or external and if you’re writing laterally, or upward to senior management such as the leadership team, or downward to junior staff.

Is the reader familiar with the information? Is this good news or bad news to them? Is this technical information you need to convey but they are unfamiliar with the technology? Will they understand internal acronyms? Are there any additional requirements? Etc. 

By focusing on what you and your audience for this business document have in common, you’ll be able to take the first steps toward a draft that meets all of your business goals. 

Hint: These steps are also helpful if you’re working on collaborative projects. 

Related: Guide to Business Writing

Deepen your business writing skills today

These are just the first steps to creating a strong business document. And while even these few pointers can put you on a more efficient pathway, our full courses offer deeper insights, individualized feedback, and best practices developed by professional writers from diverse industries. 

At the end of our Effective Business Writing Techniques course, you’ll be able to:

  • Use a proven process to plan and write any document.

  • Write effective internal and external business documents, business proposals, marketing strategies, emails, and reports.

  • Quickly generate and organize ideas.

  • Tailor your writing style dependent on the audience and goals of the document.

  • Write clearer and more concise documents.

  • Communicate more effectively both internally and externally to improve operations and the customer experience.

Strong business writing is key to building a successful business. Ready to start making a stronger, lasting impact with every business document you create? Contact us. We’ll help you identify the right course for your goals. Want to get your whole work team on board? We can discuss course customization for your specific organizational needs and business documents.

Haley Larsen
Post by Haley Larsen
Originally published February 16, 2022, updated August 11, 2023
Haley is a professional writer and content strategist with years of teaching experience. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in English from Purdue University, and earned her M.A. in Literature and Culture from Oregon State University. She has experience teaching academic research methods, college writing, and business writing — and loves them all. She enjoys helping learners from all industries improve their writing skills and find their voice. When she's not reading, you can find her doing yoga, watching football, or hiking the mountain trails above her home in Salt Lake City, Utah.