Keeping it on the straight and narrow
Writing for business is an often-overlooked skill. With the benefit of an expert eye, we provide an overview of what to bear in mind when you're writing, and consider some of the easy mistakes and common crimes that can jeopardise your business communications.
Although business owners and entrepreneurs undoubtedly have all kinds of talents and expertise, they are not necessarily good business writers – which is why so many business communications just don’t hit the mark.
As a rule of thumb, there are three basic laws that can help to make your business writing more effective:
1. Clarity: Have a clear message and use the best words to deliver it
2. Brevity: Length is not authority – use words economically and don’t stray from the point
3. Accuracy: Ensure that your grammar, spelling and punctuation is correct, use the right words with the right meanings, and tell the truth.
Keep it clear
Clarity is key in getting your message across successfully. Brevity and accuracy will support this, but it’s also important to know want to say before you start.
Your business and offering should be well-defined, so that you are able to tell your customers exactly who you are and what you can do for them. Consider what you want people to think and feel when they read your material. Your story should spark their interest and your messages should be easily understood. Be clear, concise, purposeful, authentic. Avoid jargon and cliché, avoid repetition, and don’t waffle.
Whatever kind of content you’re writing, make sure that it’s well-structured and unambiguous. Your message will come across much more clearly if it’s easy follow, progresses logically, and isn’t open to misunderstandings or double-entendres.
For some great examples of ambiguous headlines,see our blog article on effective headline writing.
A short word on brevity
It can be easy to slip into being overly wordy. However, while it’s important to write well in your business communications, directness is key.
Structuring your content using headings, paragraphs and bullet points can help in producing concise, bite-sized copy. Ultimately, sticking to the point is the best way to retain your client’s or customer’s interest in your message, and keeping it short and sweet really can be as simple as using fewer words.
The long... ...and the short of it
At this moment in time Now
Due to the fact that Because
The question as to whether Whether
The vast majority of Most
A still ever increasing proportion of More
Each and every single solitary individual Each
Accuracy is no joke
Over-wordiness is one way of losing the interest of potential customers – inaccuracy is another. Communications and content containing poor spelling, grammar and punctuation will not reflect well on your business, and in the worst case may give out entirely the wrong message. While mispunctuated phrases like “Giant kid’s playground” or “Dicks in tray” conjure up some interesting images and may raise a smirk, they don’t make for good business communications.
It’s always worth running a basic spellcheck on any documents containing content, whether intended for your staff, existing clients or the wider public. However, we also recommend taking the time to read through anything you write very carefully, not least because wrongly used words can be spellchecker-proof.
flex's top 10 common crimes
The “business writing crimes” in our top 10 appear in no particular order. They all contribute, alone or in combination, to lessening the impact of written content or simply making it bad. Use this as a checklist when you write for your business – and avoid the common crimes.
1. Bad spelling and punctuation
2. Using jargon and cliché
3. Using the wrong words
4. Cramming too much in
5. Not getting to the point
6. Lack of structure
7. Writing for yourself, not your reader
8. All waffle, no wit
9. Sounding the same as everybody else
10. Sloppiness: failing to check for 1-9