Taking a business writing course can be a great investment in your professional future.
You will learn a lot about how to communicate with people through letters, memos, emails, and marketing materials.
It is also an antidote for poor writing skills.
And these days, everyone should consider improving their writing skills. Let us explore the reasons why.
How Bad Writing Can Get You in Big Trouble These Days
Having solid business writing skills is important, no matter what level you are at in your career.
Case in point: Recently, a teacher was in the news because she had critiqued a letter sent by President Donald Trump. She marked the letter with various grammar corrections and was highlighted in the news for this.
These corrections, of course, were embarrassing for the White House. However, the teacher was also mocked online for her poor communication skills. Among other things, she used the slang terms “y’all” and “OMG” in her notes to President Trump. She also used a purple pen, which made her writing appear immature and childish.
(Of more interest to people who are concerned about grammar: The teacher also missed the improper usage of the term “further” when the letter should have said “furthermore.”)
Both the White House team that crafted the letter the President signed, as well as the teacher herself, could have benefited from some better business writing skills.
Because of the poor examples on both sides, “Grammar Nazis” on Twitter and Facebook had a field day.
This is an extreme example, but the fact is, these days, any letter you write at your company could easily end up fodder for social media mockery if it is bad enough.
Do you want online Grammar Nazis picking through your business writing and making fun of it?
Do you want your memo to be posted on Facebook as an example of really bad, hilariously bad, business writing?
Don’t think you are immune just because you are a “nobody.”
A managing editor at Business Insider posted, pretty much verbatim, examples of bad cover letters for people applying for jobs. The article was a bit mean-spirited and snarky, but the fact is, that’s how a lot of people roll these days.
Perhaps you can understand her frustration after reading this snippet:
“I am so honored to have a working job with you as a columnist and its my interest to write. And like to write columns, blogs, reviews, articles and letter to the editor. My columns have come in the [redacted] Times and [redacted]. I wrote for the [redacted] for the forums.”
That seems shockingly bad, and yet that individual actually considers themselves a columnist.
Even if you are a writer by trade, honing your skills through continuing education is a good idea.
Why Take a Business Writing Course?
Business writing is one of those topics that works really well as an online course.
Writing, by its very nature, is a great method of distance communication. If you want your writing critiqued, you can get it reviewed just as easily online as in person.
You cannot say the same thing about other subjects, such as skiing, where it is much easier to learn in person.
An online business writing course has the following benefits:
1. Many Business Writing Courses Are Cheap or Free
You can learn business writing online for a low cost at many online schools. Some courses are even free. This is much more affordable than taking extension courses at your local college or university, which can run into the hundreds of dollars per credit hour.
2. You Can Learn on Your Own Schedule
Forget about fighting traffic or worrying about picking up your kid from school. When you take an online business writing course, you can better control your schedule. (This depends on the course format, of course.)
3. You Can Rewatch Teaching Videos
When you are taking an in-person class, unless you are recording the audio, you can’t rewind the lecture and play back a part you missed.
When an online video, you can rewind, pause, and re-watch the video until you fully understand the concepts.
4. You Will Get a Credential for Your Resume
Many of the basics of business writing can be learned from various books on the subject. However, you will not get the benefit of a credential for your resume.
If you take an online course, however, you can add that course to the education section of your resume.
Granted, some courses will be more applicable to certain careers or professional levels.
If you are looking for a CEO-level job, you probably don’t want to put a course such as “Business Grammar Basics” on your resume.
However, if you are in a field such as marketing, having a business writing credential could perhaps be a boost to your job hunt.
Why Everyone Should Improve Their Business Writing
You may think you are a good writer, but business writing is a special sort of writing that has its own informal rules and guidelines.
To take the teacher who took on President Trump as an example, she probably could have benefited from a business writing course. First, she might have realized that using more formal language, especially when critiquing the president, might have helped her credibility.
Second, she might have also learned, depending on the course, the importance of proper presentation. While it might not seem like a big deal, using a purple pen was a mistake. Red ink, which has been historically used for professional editing, would have given her more authority and an aura of professionalism.
Do you pepper your business emails with emojis?
Depending on where you work and what business you are in, that might be a big no-no.
(Tip: When in doubt, don’t use emojis or cute icons in business correspondence. Keep it professional. You are no longer a high school student.)
You might not be aware of or confused by some of the informal rules and guidelines of professional business writing. Here are some things you might need to learn:
1. Basics of Grammar
Having a refresher in basic grammar is a good thing for everyone who writes. Even experienced, professional writers get lazy and forget to check for common errors, such as dangling participles.
Understanding the basics of capitalization can be important for credibility as well as readability.
The White House letter that was critiqued by the teacher overused capitalization. Now, an argument could be made that the White House might consciously choose to capitalize the word “nation” as a point of style, but generally speaking, in English, we typically only capitalize proper nouns.
Example: Do You think This Paragraph looks Right to You? Or do You think that Capitalizing Constantly makes You look less Professional?
2. Professional Presentation
What, exactly, is the proper format for a business memo? How should you sign your emails? For that matter, what is the best way to start your emails? These are things you can learn and explore in various business writing courses.
3. Getting Your Point Across Well
If you write a long, rambling memo that doesn’t get to the point quickly enough, you can lose your reader’s attention. Don’t become known around the office as the person who sends the long rambling emails that end up in the trashcan.
What You Need to Take an Online Business Writing Course
To take an online business writing course, you will need a computer such as a desktop or laptop, and access to the Internet. You should have the ability to stream videos through your Internet connection.
You could potentially get by using a tablet to access your writing course, but as you will have to do writing assignments, you need a keyboard. Some Android tablets and iPads do have an option to use a Bluetooth keyboard.
You do not want to take a writing course with just a smartphone. This would be very difficult.
Today, laptops and tablets are very reasonably priced, and you should consider the investment part of your course materials.
Of course, if you are taking the course as part of professional development you need for your job, your employer might be OK with you using your work computer to take the course.
7 Great Business Writing Courses to Consider
When choosing a course in business writing, think about what you really need to learn. Be honest with yourself. Are you at a loss when it comes to grammar? There is no shame in taking a beginning grammar course.
Many general business writing courses will cover the basics of grammar as well as specific aspects of business writing. Here are some business writing courses to consider:
1. Alison: Business Communication – Fundamentals of Business Writing
Alison offers a free course in Business Communication – Fundamentals of Business Writing. You will need to pay a nominal fee for a certificate, which is optional. You do not need a certificate to put the course on your resume. The certificate is simply proof that you finished the course.
2. Gotham Writers: Business Writing | Level I
Gotham Writers offers a level 1 Business Writing course that promises to teach you the basics in an engaging, entertaining way. You'll have to pay the tuition fee and registration fee. If you want one-on-one tutoring along with the course, you can purchase that for a different payment.
3. Education To Go: Effective Business Writing
Education To Go, aka ed2gom, offers an instructor-led Effective Business Writing Course. This six-week course includes a total of 24 course hours. You will learn what good writing is and how to improve your own writing.
4. Business Writing Center: Basic Grammar and Writing Skills for Business
You can find tons of great virtual business writing courses at Business Writing Center that are affordable and accessible. Basic Grammar and Writing Skills for Business is one of their most popular courses. This covers basics of grammar, including how to properly punctuate and structure sentences. The goal of the course is to help make your writing clearer and more understandable.
5. Business Writing Center: BWC210 Business Writing Skills
If you are already solid with your basic writing skills and grammar, consider taking Business Writing Center’s Business Writing Skills course. This focuses on writing quality business documents, from memos to reports and emails.
This is a course where you can go at your own pace, but you still have access to an instructor who will evaluate your assignments and give you helpful feedback and comments. You have up to four months to complete the entire course.
6. Study.com: Communications 103: Workplace Communications with Computers
Study.com’s Communications 103: Workplace Communications with Computers focuses explicitly on writing and communications done through the computer. And, let’s face it, the majority of business correspondence today is computer-based. This course will be good for all business communication, however, as it goes into elements of effective communication and more.
7. American Management Association: Business Writing Workshop
This is the most expensive course of the bunch, with the four-day training for non-members. However, the American Management Association’s Business Writing Workshop may provide that high-level professional credential you are looking for.
These courses are online, but live, so you will need to block out significant periods of time to participate. The lessons are three hours each on Tuesday and Thursdays for four total lessons.
Take a Business Writing Course Today
Improving your professional communications with an online business writing course is a great investment of time, money, and energy.
You will learn how to communicate more effectively and write more efficiently. You will be better able to get points across to coworkers, clients, and superiors.
Taking an online business writing course could mean the difference between a career dead-end or a fabulous new opportunity.
Get started today!