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Using Authoritative Sources in Business Writing

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Communicating with clients, colleagues, and social media audiences is key for business people, with LinkedIn having  675 million active users and a high rate of activity. From writing business reports to publishing an authoritative article on LinkedIn, written communication is a key way to sell products and services, inform audiences of new developments in your sector, and establish yourself as  an authority in your specialization. In professional business writing, the quality of your sources is key. Using hyperlinks to authority cites and footnoting important cases or studies are key, but these are just the very beginning of writing authoritative texts.

What Amounts to an Authoritative Source?

When looking for statistics for  an engaging opening line or headline, or searching for the latest study on a subject,  you should cite recognized sources in business. These may include the Harvard Business Review, Google Webmaster, or Forbes. These publications are known for hiring academics or writers that are specialists in their field and the statistics and other pertinent information they provide are usually fact-checked. The publications should be known for their credibility (think The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal) and they should not have an overtly political slant if the latter leads to selective source citing.

Including an Executive Summary

State your purpose from the outset, so fellow business executives can obtain a good picture of what to expect from your writing. If it is a research piece, state your findings in the summary and provide the main reasons for these conclusions. Explain why your research was undertaken and include applications of your results to the business world. If you are writing an executive summary, state the scope and objective in one sentence, include your findings and recommendations, and state the pertinent management response.

Adapting to the Nature of Your Business Writing

The extent to which your sources should be academic depends on the nature and subject of your writing. If you are writing a blog based on your own experience, then finding a few pertinent statistics will balance the personal nature of your writing. This might be the case if you are writing an opinion-based post on new business regulations or sharing information on a project you are working on. However, if you are writing about studies and statistics, then you should have more than two or three academic sources in your resource list. The more recent the studies or survey results you are sharing the better, since many newer studies contradict older findings owing to advances in technology, study methods, and the like.

Making Writing More Accessible

Authoritative content specializing in certain themes (think audits, inventory, or technical additions to your organization) can be difficult to digest if it is too long. You can kill two birds with one stone by dividing a topic into five smaller articles, creating a series so as to engage your readers. If you are writing about artificial intelligence in social media or SEO, for instance, you might divide your topics into latest developments, AI in your industry, how AI can bring in more revenue, and AI in voice search. Announce all the topics you will be delving into from the outset, so your readers are excited about the next publication.

Speaking in a Way Your Audience Can Understand

Your report, summary, or blog post  should be written in plain English. Aim for short sentences in the active voice, using no more than 20 words per sentence if possible. Use everyday words rather than complex ones and run your text by someone who does not work in your profession. They should be able to identify phrases and words that leave them stumped or that may be so confusing that they just stop reading.

Writing great authoritative content for business readers begins by using trustworthy sources that are pertinent to your subject matter. Despite the fact you are writing on an area of expertise, you should aim to connect with your audience by adopting your tone to your readership and by dividing complex topics into digestible chunks. Finally, write in simple English and use small paragraphs and subheading so that readers can easily make their way along your text.

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.

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