How Businesspeople Can Write Better Things, Better: Part 1

Harlands Accountants

Writing is easy. Because we can spell and build sentences, right? And because we have a laptop. And a pen.

Writing is easy just like photography is easy because we have an iPhone. And writing is easy just like designing is easy because we can use Canva. Yet whilst there’s nothing wrong with nice laptops, globally significant smartphones and design-and-publish online platforms, when we use them, we can still very often end up with a painting-by-numbers solution instead of a unique piece of art.

Expert photographers somehow manage to muster imagery that moves us. Experienced, expert graphic designers craft typography that takes our breath away. And expert writers take us on a journey. Expert writers engage and persuade us. They hold our attention. And make us think.

Or, of course, any of us that consider ourselves able to write, we can use our laptops, our pens and our ability to spell and build sentences to bore our readers to tears. So just how do good writers write so well?

How Businesspeople Can Write Better Things, Better

Let’s focus on businesspeople. Business owners, business founders or people in senior positions in business. People that know lots of things about their own businesses. People that want to say something about what they are and do, and maybe why they do it, to an audience they know, understand, and appreciate. Are there any rules that can help this kind of person to do this kind of writing that little bit better? Yes, there are. And here are seven of them. Some sit together easily. Some pull against each other a little bit. So interpret and use the guidance in the best way for you.

The first three appear in this article. The next four appear in a separate part two article coming soon.

Be Consistent

There’s no such thing as writing for the web versus writing for a brochure. Not really there isn’t. Yes, you’ll probably write a bit less for digital platforms than you will for print media. But the tone, sentiment and personality should be the same. If you’re being authentic, that’s all you can do anyway. You can’t help but be you if you’re being authentic. So if you do happen to be writing for the web, drop any pretence, posturing or adoption of some nifty trick you heard from some SEO practitioner on a podcast. Just be you.

I specifically mention the distinction between writing for the web versus writing for a brochure because of some business people’s ideas around shoehorning in words and expressions that they think might bolster the search engine optimisation effort online. It’s unnatural to write this way, and it’s unnatural to read. And even if you do end up with better optimised copy, if the prose is forced and clunky, no one will read what you’ve written anyway. Because it’ll be rubbish. So even if you do manage to increase traffic to your website, there is little point in doing that if the copy itself is tedious and clumsy from a readability perspective.

Problems start when you forget you are meant be persuading, inspiring, entertaining or educating. All of these very soon disappear when we instead start to pack in as many derivatives of lawnmower, lawnmowers, mowers, grass cutters, grass cutting, grass, cutters, lawn, lawns, rollers and lawn rollers.

Whenever and wherever you write, just write well. Write compellingly. Get to the point. Write consistently. And really do think about when you should be educating, inspiring, persuading, entertaining or whatever else. Keep it natural. Keep it ‘you’.

Think About Tone

A consistent tone is important as we mentioned at point one. But it must be the correct tone. When you are writing as a business, it’s probably not the best thing to get into ‘teacher’ mode. Your copy is likely to patronise if you do. Over explaining ideas means you’ll come across as just too, well, overbearing. You might make the reader feel that it is in your nature to just take over. You might make them feel that you’ll leave no room for their personality and ideas to come through should you work together.

But you’re not their best buddy either. You’re not their mate. Or pal. Or friend. Well, not yet you’re not. So exclaiming how flipping bonkers they’d be to choose one of your competitors instead of you, or how whacky, jolly and fun it’d be to build a working relationship with you is just plain wrong.

And finally, blend-in is just as bad. The protocols for communication in your category should be noticed, but not copied verbatim. Shift your tone from theirs. Just a bit, though. And in a way that feels natural for you and your brand.

Don’t Overcommunicate

Don’t tell everybody everything. You really should know the thing or things about your product or service that most influence buying decisions and consumer behaviour. Ideally, it’ll be just one thing. And it’ll never be more than three things. That’s where you should focus. You focus on what you know they focus on. And if you are not sure what that is, find out. Because you can’t write anything precise and useful until you do.

A great question to ask yourself before you write something designed to help a reader to understand what you do and why to choose you is, ‘what’s the one thing I want them to remember, more than anything else, once they’ve read this.’ This question will lead you to plan better. It’s all about planning, really. (And as a side note, if you decide that the one thing you want them to remember is closer to ‘what you do’ rather than ‘why you are uniquely better’ – you have a brand problem. Speak to a decent brand consultant about that).

So there you have it. The first three. ‘Write Consistently’, ‘Think About Tone’ and ‘Don’t Overcommunicate’. That advice is a good start point to help business owners, business founders or people in senior positions in business to write better content for their business.

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