Make Your Business Writing Pop!
By Steve Milano
Steve Milano has been writing for newspapers, magazines, businesses, associations and Web sites for more than 25 years, including “Entrepreneur,” “Sports Illustrated for Kids Parents’ Playbook,” “Fit” and “Business Development Outlook.” He has taught business writing as an adjunct professor and private lecturer. Steve is also a consultant with Dave Oakes Seminars.
In business writing, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. You may provide the exact information you want your customers and potential clients to have, but if you present it in the wrong order or from the wrong perspective, they may not receive the message you intended.
In addition to your writing technique, the format on which your writing will be displayed can affect your message. Verbiage that works well for a letter may not be effective for a Web page, and might be deleted without being read if the reader gets it via e-mail.
Below are a few tips to help your writing pop, and get your message read:
#1 – Consider Your Format
Keep written letters to one page, if possible. Break information into short paragraphs of no more than three to four sentences, with each paragraph containing only one idea. Keep Web copy brief. Successful Internet content producers require their writers to keep articles less than 500 words. Don’t provide details in e-mails. Send one- or two-sentence e-mails that tease people enough to want them to go to your Web page for information. Use e-mails to get people to click on links, not to act.
#2 – Consider Your Lead
The first sentence of your letter, report or memo is critical in determining whether or not your readers will finish reading your message. Don’t talk about your company, product or service. Speak to the reader by identifying a problem or need they have so they’ll want to continue reading to find the solution to their problems.
#3 – Talk About Benefits
Car makers don’t emphasize fuel injection, drive train warranty or other mechanical features in their advertising. They sell reliability, affordability, status, sex appeal or other benefits. They save the specifics for additional support. Sell the benefits of your product or service first.
#4 – Use The Active Voice
“If you use our product, lower costs can be obtained,” is not as strong as, “You will lower your costs using our products.” Use active verbs to make a point.
#5 – Omit Needless Words
Check each word of your copy before you submit it to see which words don’t add any value. Change, “ABC Co. is the state of Georgia’s largest distributor,” to “ABC Co. is Georgia’s largest distributor.” Change, “We have no plans to discontinue our policy at the current time,” to “We have no plans to discontinue our policy.”
#6 – Read Your Work Aloud
One of the most effective ways to proof your work is to read it out loud. When you write something, it’s easy to skip over errors visually. When you read your work, you WILL stumble over and catch awkward phrases.