In a world of spell-check, autofill and auto-correct, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of good writing. Short-form text messages, videos, and infographics tell the story, right?
Good writing matters more than ever. Short attention spans and the massive volumes of information available online mean your writing must be clear and crisp – or people will move on in a hurry.
Your stories must be compelling, and your messages straight to the point. You can’t rely on your audience to infer your meaning. And you absolutely can’t expect anyone to understand your industry jargon.
But it’s easier said than done.
Some writers choose big words under the mistaken assumption that they will sound smarter. And some tell a story in a boring chronological order without considering the “hook” that will draw readers in and keep them interested.
Professional writers know the secrets to avoiding these pitfalls. Here are a few that you can use to bring greater clarity and elegance to your business communications:
(1) Skip the business-speak and use real words. Before you lean on clichés such as “move the needle,” “circle back,” or “going forward,” think about what you are really trying to say – and just say it. For example, if you mean, “we’re finding better ways for teams and departments to work together,” then that is what you should say. It is much clearer than “breaking down silos.”
(2) Use the active voice, not the passive. “Customers have told us,” not “We have been told.” This brings more life to the story and helps you avoid any appearance of hiding something. It’s straightforward and transparent.
(3) Get to the point as quickly as you can. If you look closely at news stories, they almost always begin with the most important kernel of information: a car crash on the highway; an important corporate development; the winner of a sporting event. Then they move on to the details. Starting with the key point draws the reader in and gets them curious about what is to come. It also ensures that you have covered your most crucial material first, so readers see it even if they don’t read the full article.
(4) Write for people. You might be writing about a B2B product or company, but your customers are still humans. We all relate to stories, especially those told with passion and emotion. Always keep your reader in mind and remember – if you wouldn’t want to read your article, no one else will either.
(5) Keep trying. Good business writing involves talent and skill, but it can be improved with practice and feedback. Read as much as you can, think about the techniques that your favourite writers use, and keep writing. If possible, ask a trusted colleague or outside expert to review and edit your work, and give input to help you improve.
The written word is as important as ever – maybe even more than ever in our online world. Don’t fall into the trap of writing dull, unreadable business content filled with jargon and unnecessary words. Try some of these secrets of professional writers and let your own inner writer shine through.