Great business writing is an increasingly rare commodity. Quantity has swamped quality as email culture has brutalised the skill of writing.
‘Writing’ in this sense is an unhelpful term. It covers emails, presentations, pitch documentation, memos, speeches and more. Each of these requires a different skill, but there are some commonalities. For a start, the writer should work backwards. Writing, like selling, is not about what you want to say, but about how you want the reader (or listener) to respond. It’s not about you. It’s about them, it’s not about features, and it’s about benefits. It’s only by taking this approach that you can work out how to structure any document.
Too often, business writing becomes an exercise in box ticking and page filling, where the author loses touch with the required outcome in an effort to demonstrate his or her knowledge. On that basis, the key to great business writing is relevance. Who’s it aimed at? What do you want from them? What reaction are you trying to elicit? What will the next steps be?
That approach will create objectives. Objectives help prioritise key messages. Key messages create a meaningful structure. At this stage, you have still not considered writing style, language or tone. That’s correct because they should also be developed in line with your objectives. It is true that in most cases, the reader benefits from short, crisp sentences and simple, flowing text. But different goals require very different approaches. Different individuals and audiences need to be treated differently. It sounds so simple, but it is a skill all too easily overlooked in the world of business jargon.
We have many years experience developing our clients’ writing skills in a practical context, ensuring that we add value throughout the process. Results are spectacular. The power of the written word remains key to doing business; it just does not receive the attention it deserves.