Make Your Business Writing Twice as Good


“From writing rapidly, it does not result that one writes well; but from writing well, it results that one writes rapidly.” – Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria, circa A.D. 95)

You can double the power and clarity of your business communications simply by stating your primary message earlier.

When business writing is bad, it’s usually because of one of four problems:

1. It’s too complicated.

2. It’s too confusing.

3. It’s too vague.

4. It’s unconvincing.

All four of these common problems can be combated by a straightforward thesis stated very early in the copy. Stating your main point early lets your readers know exactly what you are talking about and why they should keep reading. If your thesis is strong (i.e., the idea is useful to the audience), it will appeal to your readers right away and motivate them to read with attention the rest of what you have to say.

How soon is soon? That depends on how long the piece of writing is. The shorter the copy, the sooner you need to use your thesis sentence.

Here’s a rough guideline …

* For copy that’s 500 words or fewer, make your first sentence the thesis sentence.

* For copy between 500 words and 1,500 words, state the thesis in the first paragraph.

* For copy over 1,500 words, state the thesis within the first page.

There is no copy, however long, that justifies a thesis statement made later than the first page. This article is less than 500 words, and I stated my point in the first sentence. Imagine if I had begun with the second sentence (“When business writing is bad …”). Can you see how it would be weaker?