Online comments from an unhappy UK shopper have made headlines this month. After visiting major retailer John Lewis, Donna Hewer posted a review criticising what she perceived to be a shop assistant’s overly informal manner. ‘Saying quid when quoting a price is unxeceptable in any shop. I expect better from John Lewis,’ said Donna. Her comments immediately made two things crystal clear: the language you use in a business scenario matters to your customers, and Donna struggles with the spelling of ‘unacceptable’. People in glass houses…
Whether you know it or not, your business will indeed be judged by the language you use. Using the correct style and tone is critical if you want to keep your clients focused on how you do what you do rather than how you say you do it. Consider these three questions to ensure your business writing doesn’t go wide of the mark.
Who will be reading it?
When you have a clear understanding of just who is going to be reading your words you can suit your writing to their knowledge level and their needs. Say you’re writing an article about harmful chemicals in fertiliser. If it’s for a science magazine then by all means get deep and meaningful about the chemistry of it all. If, on the other hand, it’s for a gardening website, then avoid scientific mumbo-jumbo and use everyday garden variety language that most ‘green thumbs’ can easily digest.
Where will it be published?
Consider your goal in writing the article in the first place. Do you want to inform only? Perhaps an exciting ‘how to’ piece on pool maintenance? Then use a neutral tone suited to stating facts. However, if your goal is to drum up support for an upcoming protest about the closure of your favourite sauna house then be more passionate and persuasive – let your emotions shine through your words.
Will it support your brand?
Depending on your business, your customers will expect a certain tone. If yours is a law firm, using website copy that sounds too jokey or casual won’t give anyone confidence that you’ll get much past the first ‘Objection!’ In contrast, if your travel agency specialises in tours for under 30s, then a more upbeat tone promising outrageous levels of almost certainly legal fun at every turn is entirely appropriate.
So, did Donna Hewer have a point? Yes, she did. For Donna, the language used during her visit clearly ruined her day and may even affect her decision to remain a customer of John Lewis. We just don’t know. By all accounts, she’s still too distraught to speak. But think of your own business. Are you confident that the tone and style of your business communications are effective? More importantly, do they connect with your audience in the way you think – and hope – they do?
To be 100 per cent certain that your business messages are being received as they should, get in touch with Proof Communications. We’re the experts in making sure your written words will support your brand, not detract from it.