Essential Points for Writing Office Documents


  • Decide early how you will organize your document. The most common, and often most effective, technique is to present information in descending order of importance.


  • Make your document easy on the eyes by using plenty of white space, ample margins, headings and subheadings, and bulleted lists of key information.


  • Present your key ideas in an executive summary. This will allow people who can’t read the full text to grasp your main points quickly, especially if the document is long.


  • Use strong openings and closings. Engage your reader’s interest immediately. Methods of concluding a document include reiterating key points, drawing a conclusion or making a judgment, making recommendations, and suggesting a course of action.


  • Use informative subject lines in memos and emails. “Today’s meeting” is more informative than “Meeting,” and “Today’s meeting cancelled” is even better.


  • Keep email messages short. If your message is very important or very long (more than 250 words, or half a printed page) consider sending it as a Word file or making it a memo. Have the most important information appear in the first screen of the email, so your reader doesn’t have to scroll down to find it.


  • Follow the usual conventions when writing emails: Use correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Do not use emoticons (smiley faces, etc.). Proofread before sending.


  • Make documents of five pages or fewer memorandums. Documents longer than five pages are usually reports. Confirm with someone who knows your company’s conventions, however.


  • Include at least the following parts in a formal report: table of contents, executive summary, body, conclusion, appendix, and bibliography.


  • In international correspondence, avoid jargon, idioms, figures of speech, and any other terms that could be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Consider being more formal and indirect in your writing than you might otherwise be. Research the customs of the individual country. Be unfailingly respectful and professional.



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