Writing (and writing well) is everyone’s job. Some of us must do more of it than others, but no one – especially in the fields of PR and marketing – is exempt. How many emails do you draft and send every day? How about social posts? Web copy? Blogs, articles or presentations? Regardless of the form our words take, just about everything we write needs to inform or sell, or both.
So, let’s all resolve to learn to be better writers – and communicators – in 2017. Here are five business writing tips to make it happen.
- Delete your first paragraph. Most of us take at least a couple of sentences to “warm up” – to set the tone, give some context, establish a framework. And that’s fine, but our readers shouldn’t suffer. Go back to the beginning of your draft and re-read your opening. Do you really need it? Keep deleting until your first paragraph gets to the point.
- Embrace “you” and “we.” Rather than saying “target audience” or “customers,” use pronouns. Talk to them as “you;” refer to your organization as “we.” You’ll find that your writing becomes shorter, livelier (more active verbs) and more direct. Of course, not every medium accepts this style of writing; abide by editorial guidelines first.
- Don’t boil the ocean. Every industry has its own language. Likewise, we all tend to use “big words” like “utilize” instead of “use.” As a general rule, it’s best to keep your writing jargon-free. Keep it simple. Give your writing the mom test. She’s smart and business savvy, but she doesn’t know much (or anything) about your field. Would she read your blog and say, “Huh?”
- Temper the hyperbole. Words like “very” and “incredibly” and “most” and “often” work, in many cases, to color and qualify your writing. But there can be too much of a good thing and it may undermine your message. Remove as many as possible, replacing with more precise, sincere statements and proof points.
- Spend more time on headlines and subject lines. They’re hard to write – well – but so important! Article headlines and email subject lines often determine who opens and actually reads what you’ve written. Are they blah? Or click-bait? The best titles are descriptive, catchy, short and literal. Seems like an impossible combination. But there are headline analyzer tools that can help. And if you have the capacity to experiment and analyze what works (e.g., A/B testing, for example), you’re guaranteed to improve open rates and reach.
Writing isn’t just an art; it’s a skill, and it can be learned and strengthened. Commit to improving your business writing in 2017 and you’ll not only gain confidence as a communicator, but also impact.
Writing is core to your communications plan. Take a look at our planning guide to make sure you have all the key elements in place – and on point.