What are the five words you most want to read when you’re checking out reviews on the back of a book? ‘This will change your life’? Nope. ‘How to get rich quick’? Maybe. ‘I couldn’t put it down’? Absolutely. And whilst those five words make you champ at the bit to start reading that thriller, they’re not often said about business documents. Well, let’s be frank: they’re never said. But why is that? What is it about business writing that makes it so dull? And how can we make it more readable?
Attract your reader’s attention.
In B2B writing, it’s perfectly acceptable – in fact, essential – to use words that are benefit-focused; the kind used for advertisements. Research tells us that people respond best to words such as ‘free’, ‘simple’, ‘easy’, ‘now’, ‘fast’, ‘save’, ‘quick’. See the difference they can make to this message:
Use our mortgage calculator to work out your repayments.
Work out your repayments now with our free mortgage calculator – it’s quick and easy.
Once you’ve written all you want to say, the editing process becomes super important. Have you been using three words when one will do? For example:
- In the years to come…In future
- Means they can…Allows
- As it stands…Currently
So often we see the same words used again and again. Not everything has to be ‘key’, ‘innovative’, ‘expert’, ‘cutting-edge’, or ‘dynamic’. Sure, these words have their place, but over-use clutters up text and blurs your message. If you’ve already made your point early on by saying something is ‘ideal’ a couple of times, take it as read that your reader gets it.
An honest review.
Read over your work as though you’re the audience. They’ll be asking three critical questions and it’s imperative they find the answers in your text:
- So what?
- Who cares?
- What’s in it for me?
If you don’t think the answers are truly obvious, then you’ve missed the mark. Edit your work to make the message sharper.
Whether you’re writing a tender, a report, website copy, an email to staff, or whatever, take the stiffness and formality out of what goes down on paper. ‘Business’ doesn’t have to equate to ‘boring’. Your aim is to see your reader read through to the end and feel it really was a worthwhile exercise.