The chief purpose in communication is to be read. Whether it’s emails, texts, tweets, blog posts, letters, memos, or proposals—we want people to read what we’ve written. Good writing is clear, readable, and audience appropriate. It attracts the reader to the message. On several occasions, I have read a book review in the Wall Street Journal and within the hour left my house and bought the book—Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss was one of them. That’s effective book review writing.
Every word you use or misuse sends a powerful message about you and your business. And it’s a perception that cannot be easily deleted if you don’t take time to proofread your copy, fact check your statistics, or use concise language. This includes our tweets and blog posts. If we become so consumed with the volume of our information on Twitter and forget that the language in our tweets sends the first impression of us, we need to slow down.
Here’s an example from IABC’s Communication World’s Cringe Collection, and it’s an actual global company’s advertorial: “Given the limitations on current storage management technology imposed by heterogeneous storage infrastructure, achieving nominal capacity allocation and utilization efficiency is nothing short of a black art.”
What do you think that nugget of incomprehensible writing cost the company? Perhaps more damaging than a loss to its bottom line is the damage to a company’s reputation when poor writing is published. A company’s significant investment in professional graphic design, marketing, printing, and a Web presence is doomed when the words can’t be read and understood.
Whether you’re composing a media release, a blog post, an email to a prospective client, or a tweet, the following five easy steps will help you write clear, effective communication:
1. Use language tools to help you write strong copy. Need a good word? Check out www.thesaurus.com and www.dictionary.com. Buy Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and reacquaint yourself with the elementary rules of usage. For a refresher on possessives and apostrophes, read Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
2. Write sentences in simple subject-verb-object format. If you want consumers and clients to read your marketing communications, “write to express, not to impress” (Bob Bly).
3. Increase your writing fluency by increasing your reading. An excellent place to start is the daily reading of The Wall Street Journal.
4. Keep your average sentence length under 20 words when possible.
5. Proofread your writing, and then ask a colleague to proofread it too—especially with Web-related copy and information that is posted on the public timeline. For instance, commenting on the Nobel Peace prize and accidentally writing Nobel Piece prize may attract attention you don’t want.
In today’s business world, mastering the power of language is a must for success, and it’s one of the most cost-effective changes you can make to gain a marketing edge.