My mother taught me three things about business writing when I was young.
I was a dreamy child. I spent many an hour pretending I was being sucked into a space-time vortex (our passage), which I navigated using a time transponder (my watch) until I reached another dimension (my room). When I wasn’t traversing the space-time continuum, I was leaping off tall structures in my mom’s gown, pretending to be Batman.
Trying to get my attention must have driven my efficient mom nuts. She was competing with my rich fantasy world, and had to find ways to grab and hold my attention. Your business communication and my mom have something in common.
The Stage Today
Today, your business communication plays out on the stage of the information age, against the backdrop of variety of choice and information overload. What is going to make your press release stand out? What is going to make your reader’s fingertips hover over the keyboard and answer your email ahead of the rest? How are you going to grab and hold your reader’s attention?
My Mom Meant Business
There were times that my mom spoke that I sat up and took notice. There was something about her words, and the way she was saying them that showed me she meant business, and that it would be in my best interest to listen.
How did she do it?
3 Things My Mother Taught Me About Business Writing
- She used simple language. She knew that simple language was powerful language. If you want your voice to rise above information overload, you need to communicate with the elegance of simplicity. Long and convoluted sentences that are padded with business clichés leave you sounding like every other business email out there. It won’t get you noticed.
- She gave me the punchline first. She knew that she needed to give me the most important information upfront, or my focus would drift. In The Plain Language Programme, we encourage the use of the inverted pyramid in writing. Give your readers the most important information (regarding what, who, when, where, how, and why), in order of importance, right at the start of your communication.
- She was clear about what she wanted me to do next. When my mom spoke, there was no doubt in my mind about what she wanted me to do. Ensure that your readers know what the next step is, and what action you expect them to take. It creates a direct route to the outcome you want. It is also respectful towards your readers. It shows you value their time enough not to waste it by forcing them to re-read your email to figure out what you want.
If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme.
by Donna Radley
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