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Creating effective business documents

Last Updated 2022/04/12

Invoices, statements, reports, quotes and receipts, your business needs to communicate specific and accurate information with clients and staff and make sure that everything is watertight from a legal and business perspective. You want to make sure there is no confusion at all when it comes to what services you are providing, and the relevant agreements involved.

To create effective, relevant documents, there are four primary factors you have to consider:

Audience

Who is going to be receiving and reading the document? Are they familiar with your industry and its technicalities? Alternatively, are they outsiders whom you need to take through these details in a clear and direct manner? It is essential to get the tone or “voice” of the document just right.

Professional documents will need to be written formally and may require specific stipulations laid out in a precise manner. If you are writing to persuade potential new customers, then the tone can be more relaxed and friendly. It is good to have a look at other examples of the same document by other companies in your field to get an indication of what works best.

A good test is to read your text aloud and see if the tone is fit for purpose. If it sounds stilted or doesn’t get to the point, you will hear that, and be able to make the necessary changes.

Format

Depending on what you are trying to achieve, the type of document you are creating can vary widely. Accounting documentation has its conventions, with set formats for invoices, statements and reminders, respectively.

Things are less set in stone when you are looking to create a report or proposal. You will have to carefully consider what it is that the reader is looking for, and what benefits you regarding conveying that information. For example, if you are creating a report for potential investors, you want to bring figures for productivity and profitability to the fore. Often, people will have a set idea of what information they need beforehand, and it is your job to make it as easy as possible for them to find it.

Layout

By designing your document with ease-of reading in mind, you can engage the recipient more effectively. Break up different sections with distinct start and end points. Include headings, an index, page breaks and white-space to keep the reader’s eye moving.

You should avoid huge, unwieldy walls of text at all costs. If the reader cannot scan through and find what they need quickly, then you may have lost their interest, or have to waste time explaining details at a later point.

Graphics such as charts and illustrations can be useful, but think avoid including too many unnecessarily. You may have a limited amount of page space, and graphics that don’t serve a definite purpose will eat that up. As with the text, think about what you are trying to communicate.

Style

It is tempting to base the visual style of your document of personal preferences, but it is better overall to research what is expected as an industry standard and conform to that. The feel of the document should reflect its purpose, and a consistent look should hold up throughout. You can achieve this by sticking to one or two fonts and two or three colours. Too many variations will create a disjointed, jumbled style.

The visual style should complement your layout, and appeal to your target audience. Once you have completed the document, spend some time to look over it and see if it does work as a whole, in conveying the message you need it to.

Automatic Generation

The alternative is to use software that automatically generates the documents you need, based on criteria previously entered into the system. Automation has the advantage of a consistent look and layout every time and avoids the need to input the same information over and over again.

If you are interested in automatically creating attractive, clear business documents that convey a clear message, SwiftCase can help. Ask for a demonstration of our powerful business process management platform, today.

Adam Sykes