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The Power Business Writing Guide

The Power Business Writing Guide

Business writing principles of the most successful people in the world

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Today at a Glance:

  • Study the lives and practices of today’s most successful entrepreneurs, financiers, and builders and you’ll find one common trait: a deep, visceral understanding of the importance of powerful, efficient, high-leverage writing.

  • Why? These leaders know that powerful writing isn't an accident—clear writing is clear thinking.

  • The four key principles of powerful business writing: (1) Draft Fast, Edit Slow, (2) KISS, (3) Clear Target Reaction, and (4) Storytelling.

The Power Business Writing Guide

Visuals by @drex_jpg

Want to accelerate your career? Write better. Period.

Study the lives and practices of today’s most successful entrepreneurs, financiers, and builders and you’ll find one common trait: a deep, visceral understanding of the importance of powerful, efficient, high-leverage writing.

Jeff Bezos famously installed memo writing as a mainstay of Amazon’s business culture. Prior to kicking off a meeting, attendees would be asked to read and digest several pages of written memos from the meeting leads. Why? Bezos deeply believed in the value of these memos, not only for the uninformed participants, but also for the meeting leads to clarify their thinking through the writing process.

Warren Buffett famously writes an annual shareholder letter, distilling insights on billions of dollars in investments into a single memo.

The list of writing advocates goes on and on…

Why? These leaders know that powerful writing isn't an accident—clear writing is clear thinking.

In this piece, I will attempt to deconstruct the four key principles of powerful business writing…

They are as follows:

  1. Draft Fast, Edit Slow

  2. KISS

  3. Clear Target Reaction

  4. Storytelling

I’ll cover each principle and provide some additional learning resources:

Principle 1: Draft Fast, Edit Slow

There's nothing more daunting than a blank page.

We have all experienced it at one time or another—sitting at our desk, staring into the abyss of a blank Word document or notebook page, with no idea where to start. The perfect line is illusive, and everyone knows you need a perfect first line…

The solution?

Play a trick on yourself. Start writing, fast. Get a draft down—and don’t worry at all about the quality (seriously, it’s ok if it sucks).

My friend Julian Shapiro said it best: “Making something bad then iterating until it’s good is faster than making something good upfront.”

Here's a framework that works for me: Write-Rest-Review.


Get the first draft down as quickly as possible.

Walk away for 5 minutes—go for a walk, grab a coffee, listen to some music, whatever.

Come back and review the draft with the benefit of that refresh.

Ask a bunch of questions:

  • What's missing?

  • Where are the logical flaws?

  • Where are the cracks?

  • Where is the writing loose or flimsy?

When you review with "new" eyes, good things tend to happen.

Try out Write-Rest-Review and let me know how it works for you!

Principle 2: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Most people assume that longer, more complex writing will impress and inspire.

Sorry, it doesn't.

Great business writing is simple and direct. There's no fluff or handwaving—it's tactical.

A few actionable tips to tighten and simplify:

Cut the Fluff

In school, we were taught to heap descriptors into our writing. We were told it made it more vibrant. It also helped fill out the word or page count we were forced to hit…

In the real world, those fluff words are the silent killers of powerful business writing.

Review your draft with an eye towards removing any unnecessary words & sentences.

Some common fluff:

  • "I think X"

  • "Very" (or similar adverbs)

  • Acronyms

  • Jargon

  • $10 words (i.e. fancy, big, long words)

Be ruthless in identifying and eliminating the fluff words & sentences from your writing.

Shorten Everything

Powerful business writing is very similar to powerful Twitter writing: short, punchy writing is better.

Use short sentence structures.

Space sentences or paragraphs out to make the writing more optically pleasing. Great business writing should be engaging to the eye.

I have found writing more on Twitter to be a force amplifier for my business writing—it’s a forced brevity training ground. Use it to your advantage as you work at your craft.

Add Data

This is a classic principle instilled by Jeff Bezos in Amazon's writing-centric culture.

When in doubt, replace fluff words with data.

Before: "The majority of viewers loved the show."

After: "95% of viewers rated the show with 5-stars."

The after is clear & much more impactful!

Principle 3: Clear Target Reaction

Great business writing has a clear target reaction—a deliberate purpose or aim.

That target reaction should be experienced by the reader immediately. As my friend Sam Parr says, "Punch the reader in the face with your first sentence."

Amazon calls it the "so what?" test:

Before you share any piece of business writing, identify the "so what?" of the piece. What reaction, value, or takeaway should the audience have? Is it coming across loud and clear? If not, go back to the drawing board and punch harder.

This target reaction should be a central focus during your writing process. I force it into mind by putting a big sticker with the target reaction at the top of the page (to be removed at the end).

Principle 4: Storytelling

Storytelling is a foundational skill—but it's one we don’t learn in the traditional education system. It's no coincidence that the greatest CEOs & founders are the greatest storytellers. High-leverage storytelling is a supercharger for all endeavors.

Humans are naturally wired as storytelling creatures—we developed around campfires. Lean into this wiring.

Adding a story to a memo on a dry topic can bring the entire piece to life. Simple, crisp stories enhance the power of the message.

A few ideas for you:

  • Add a mini anecdote to illustrate a point.

  • Use a folksy one-liner to draw people in (Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are the MASTERS of this).

A storytelling touch will make your writing punch well above its weight.

For more, I’ve written about storytelling here and here.


Better business writing can change your life—it’s a skill like any other. With focused study and practice, you’ll be well on your way to improving your craft and leveling up.

I highly recommend everyone read at least a few of the Amazon Shareholder Letters and Berkshire Hathaway Annual Letters to see how Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett leverage these principles in their writing. It’s a free masterclass…

To summarize, the key principles to leverage to improve your business writing:

  1. Draft Fast, Edit Slow

  2. KISS

  3. Clear Target Reaction

  4. Storytelling

Start using these and I guarantee you will see improvement.

Call-to-Action: Please email or DM me with your success stories!

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