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Four Writing Stages

The Four Stages of Effective Business Writing

Effective business writing is an important ingredient for success because written communication is used in all areas of business operations.  Well-written business communication conveys expertise, professionalism, and competence.  Therefore, whether the communication is for an external or internal audience, it is worth the time and effort to write skillfully.  

What makes business writing effective?

To be effective, business writing should be clear, concise, and credible.  Clear writing is easy to understand.  Concise writing contains only the details that are pertinent to the purpose and topic of the communication.  Credible writing is true, realistic, and free of puffery.

How is effective business writing accomplished?

In her book, The Manager’s Guide to Business Writing, Suzanne D. Sparks provides an excellent blueprint for writing with clarity, conciseness, and credibility.  She divides the writing process into four stages:

  1. Planning
  2. Writing
  3. Revising
  4. Editing


Planning is the key to effective business writing.

Planning your writing will help you organize your thoughts, shape your ideas, and develop the purpose of your material.  Because planning enables you to write more efficiently, it will save you time and frustration.  

Sparks suggested making an outline to plan your writing “strategy.”  She explained that an outline does not have to be formal or follow a certain format.  Initially, it doesn’t even have to be organized. The first step is to simply get your thoughts on paper.  The next step is to decide on a method for organizing your thoughts such as chronologically or by order of importance.

It is important to clearly define the purpose for writing the communication and to write it from the audience’s perspective. For instance, if the purpose is to persuade potential customers to buy your product, then you must determine what will motivate them to buy it. Will they buy it because it will meet a basic need?  Will they buy it to keep up with the Joneses?  Will they buy it to look or feel good?  Will they buy it because it is all the rage?


With your strategy in place, you are ready to write.

Before you begin writing, Sparks suggested creating a mental image of your target audience and writing the information as if you were having a conversation with them.  You might want to ask yourself the following questions:  What information do they need to make an informed decision? How much knowledge do they already have about the topic?  What action would I like them to take after reading the information?


It’s now time to revise.

The revising stage requires critical analysis of your work.  It is the time to change things if necessary. For instance, you may need to reorder paragraphs, delete sentences, add more details, or replace some words with others.  

How can you start this process?  Read your work as if you were a member of the target audience. Does the message resonate with you? Does it give you enough information?  Does it persuade you to take action?  Does it convey an understanding of who you are or what you need?

To help with the revising process, Sparks suggested asking yourself the following questions:

It may also be helpful to ask someone else to read your material as others can sometimes see flaws that we cannot see.


Add polish to the piece with editing.

It can be difficult for us to edit our own material for consistency, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. After all, we wrote it and have probably read it at least a few times.  So how can we catch those little mistakes?  You know, the ones that are glaring at us, but we still can’t see them. If possible, ask someone else to edit your material. If you can’t recruit an editor, one trick is to set the material aside for at least a day (more if possible).  Then you can re-read it with a fresh eye and clear mind.  

If your time is limited, Sparks suggested a less time consuming method.  It involves “reading the paragraphs in reverse order.”  She says that “reading your work from finish to start may disrupt the flow of your words enough for you to catch some errors.”

Developing business writing skills takes time and practice.

If you do not write frequently or if writing is not your best skill, it will take practice to become an effective business writer.  But in the end you will be able to communicate in writing with style, grace, and expertise.


Sparks, Suzanne D. 1999. The manager’s guide to business writing. New York, New York: McGraw Hill, (pages 18-31).

Copyright © 2009 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

Effective Written Communication Gets Results

Writing is a process.  It involves developing concepts, researching the topic, outlining the material, writing a first draft, revising the draft, and conducting a final edit.   

The goal of this creative process is to develop written communication that informs, persuades, enlightens, entertains, comforts, or inspires.

Regardless of the purpose or intended audience, effective writing produces written communication that gets the desired result.  It is active, concise, solid, and accurate.   

Active writing flows well and touches the reader in some important way.

Concise writing is clear and to the point.  

Solid writing is well-organized and credible.

Accurate writing has consistency, good grammar, and appropriate punctuation.    

© 2014 Katherine Williams. All rights reserved.

Chicago, Illinois 60615 (773) 405-5916