By Sharif Khan
Effective business writing skills can help you win that million dollar contract, earn a promotion, resolve a dispute, or generate a significant increase in new business leads. Poor business writing, on the other hand, can never be undone; it can cause you to lose business to your competition and could even cost you your job.
Here are 10 easy ways to improve your business writing skills:
- Before you write a word of copy, make sure you know who your target audience is and what specific result you want to achieve. Take a few minutes to visualize yourself in the shoes of the recipient and to imagine what this person’s world is like.
What does his typical day look like? What are his unique needs, goals, and challenges? What problem is keeping him up at night? The more thought and research you invest in defining your target audience and how you can help them, the more powerful your written communications will become.
- Avoid using your company acronyms and buzzwords. While these words might seem clever to you, a busy executive may find them annoying. Also avoid academic language like “ergo” or “henceforth” and technical jargon. Keep it simple. For example, choose “use” instead of “utilize,” “send out” instead of “disseminate,” “fair” instead of “equitable.”
- Use a strong, active voice instead of the impersonal, passive voice. “The meeting agenda could be discussed further” is passive. “Let’s discuss the meeting agenda” is active. Express confidence and decisiveness in your business communications. Instead of writing, “I intend to write a report on sales performance measures,” which comes across as weak and indecisive, write: “I’m currently writing a report on sales performance measures for completion before the end of the second quarter.”
- Write in a conversational tone. Don’t alienate your readers by being too formal and bureaucratic—unless you’re writing to a bureaucrat or someone who prefers formality. Know your audience!
Even if you are writing a marketing communications piece that will be read by several thousand potential readers, make your writing as inviting and personal as possible. Write as though you are having a conversation with one specific person—your ideal customer. Keep this one person in mind and you will positively engage thousands of readers who will feel that you are writing directly to them!
- Replace hyperbole with solid facts and reputable testimonials. Phrases like, “We’re #1,” “We’re the leader in our field,” or “We provide the best service,” aren’t going to get you anywhere. Instead, use glowing testimonial, for example: John Jones, president of Acme Inc., ranks our company #1 for quality out of 500 certified companies.
- Convert product features into benefits to engage your customer emotionally. Here’s an example of benefit-oriented copy: “Our automatic domain name renewal service will provide you with the added security and comfort, knowing that your domain names will never be hijacked by your competitors while freeing up your administrative time to focus on growing your business.”
- Don’t rely on on-screen editing. Print out your document and read it aloud. If you encounter any awkwardness in speech you need to rewrite your piece to make it more conversational and to flow better.
By reading your document aloud, you will also be able to spot typos and errors that your computer spelling and grammar check program might not have detected, for example, “echo friendly” when you really meant “eco friendly.”
- Always write from your customer’s perspective. Start off praising your customer’s company. Describe the specific attributes you like about the company instead of bragging about how wonderful your company is. Overuse of “I,” “me,” or “our company” is a sure sign of ego getting in the way of business. Make sure to generously use “you” and “your” in your business copy if you want to make more sales.
- In business, you’re not writing poetry or literature, so don’t meander or get carried away with flowery language. Determine your most important point and state it up front, in the very first sentence. If you are writing a sales letter, you can significantly increase sales by simply including a powerful P.S. at the end of the letter that summarizes the main point in a fresh way, creates a sense of urgency, or adds further credibility. Here’s a powerful example: “P.S.: I’ve been invited to speak at your association’s annual conference this coming Friday and hope to see you there.”
- Be clear, concise, and get to the point. Guide you reader by including a specific call to action, that is, “Click on this link to receive your special report” or “Call me to set up a no-cost, 15-minute consultation.”
Can you imagine the thrill and excitement of driving a rocket-fast, cobalt blue Porsche 911 Turbo as it whisks you to your desired destination? A well-written article or report can be like that Porsche; it will generate a ton of new business in half the time with more fun.
More Business Writing Tips
A final word of advice: if you feel that writing is too great a challenge, consider hiring a professional!
Storytelling has also becoming one of the most rapidly growing communication tool used by business leaders and executives. Learn how to craft business stories that captivates, convince, and inspire by signing up for our free webcast today!
About the Author(s)
Sharif Khan is a freelance business writer, copywriter, and author of the leadership book Psychology of the Hero Soul. Contact him at [email protected] or (416) 417-1259 or at www.herosoul.com