Techniques to Improve Business Writing
What is plain language?
A common misunderstanding is that plain language is ‘dumbing it down’. This always makes me laugh, especially when people who work in a jargon-laden industry say it. They use their jargon to explain their jargon then they need to invent more jargon to explain the other jargon. But to quote Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Plain language is simply a message that everyone understands. Jargon works as shorthand and if everyone understands it, it is great. However, most of the people I teach can only give a vague idea of what the jargon means.
Professional Writing vs. Personal Writing
Professional writing can be defined as business writing, media writing, and writing that takes place in or for the workplace. Personal writing is considered writing for any other purpose oriented toward the individual writer’s needs. Advice available on writing dissects the writer’s capabilities to put words out effectively styled for clarity through such items as vocabulary choices and tone of voice, but style issues do not separate professional writing from personal writing. Professional writing and personal writing differs in intention, composition, and exposition.
The intention of professional writing is to reach a targeted section of the population with information, narrative, or commentary. In contrast, personal writing may be created for many reasons, some of which include: notes on the subject matter, self-expression, communication, and organization. The difference between the intention of professional writing and personal writing is that professional writing is done for a public audience, and personal writing can be defined as a written expression intended for private use, even though private writing is at times made public. The original intention of professional writing is not private.
Here are 12 storytelling that will improve your business writing:
- Captivate your readers. Entice them with a tale. Don’t bore them with acronyms, data and statistics.
- Avoid jargon. You and your colleagues may understand what you are saying, but I am certain that no one else does.
- Explore the story with your readers. Invite your customers into your world. Be careful not to tell us what you think. Rather show us what happened.
- Create a narrative. Don’t just write down words. This means you need a story with characters and a beginning, middle and end.
- Share anecdotes. Tell your readers about the things that make your company and its staff members human.
- Create heroes for us to identify with. Tell us about specific people and how they won the day.
- Entertain us. Don’t sell to us. When you are promoting your business in a story, never sell anything. The point of the story is to draw people in so that they ask about your product.
- Keep us glued to the screen. Don’t be dull. Elmore Leonard always said, ‘Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.’ Only keep the important bits in your story.
- Make us uncomfortable. Add some suspense and make us want to find out how it ends.
- Keep the story gritty. Give us texture with settings and senses, but don’t go into too much detail when you are describing.
- Keep it real – people can tell when you’re making it up.
- Show us the obstacles. Then reveal the solution.
Principles to Remember:
- Plan out what you will say to make your writing more direct and effective.
- Use words sparingly and keep sentences short and to the point.
- Avoid jargon and “fancy” words. Strive for clarity instead.
- Argue that you simply can’t write. Anyone can become a better writer with practice.
- Pretend that your first draft is perfect, or even passable. Every document can be improved.
- Bury your argument. Present your main idea as soon as possible.