Business writing is a critical skill. Bad copy cost Fortune 500 companies billions of dollars annually in lost sales, miscommunication and bad processes.
Content creators should accommodate the time demands of busy consumers, professionals and executives who have short attention spans.
Today's digital audience likes to skim or quickly scan an article before potentially reading it.
These days, consider where people are reading business content: Studies show people spend more than three hours per day on mobile and more than six hours daily on social. Device screens are getting smaller, and there's growing expectation from the audience to read shorter text that packs more value.
Business writing skills have applications in research, marketing, corporate communications, public relations, change management, product development, customer service and almost every area of the corporate world.
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Here are ways to improve your content creation skills:
1. Brevity Is the Soul of Wit
Outstanding business copy has the dual challenge of requiring both simplicity and intelligence. When you're tapping at that keyboard, be snappy and smart.
Write in clear and straightforward prose, but make sure your copy conveys wit and sound judgment. Ask this question throughout the writing process, "How can I make my article shorter and more intelligent?" Ask this question repeatedly and you'll be forced you to weed out unnecessary words. Stick to key phrases that form the essence of your message.
Creating perfect copy is like sculpting a glorious statue out of a block of marble, it's a matter of weeding out excess material. And these days, your digital and mobile audience won't have the attention span to read much more anyway.
2. Reach a Global Audience
While language can inform and educate, it can also cause confusion.
Stay away from words that have multiple meanings. Homonyms such as "coarse" (unrefined) and "course" (golf course) or "aweful" (filled with awe) and "awful" (really bad). An online thesaurus always comes in handy.
Consider words that have a specific meaning since these are less likely to be misinterpreted. In the corporate world, misconstrued words can lead to multi-million dollar lawsuits or fines.
If you're communicating with external stakeholders, you'll want to reach a wide and diverse audience. There are millions of non-native English speakers in the United States who'll find it hard to understand your message if you use convoluted terms. Aside from non-natives, clear and simple language makes sense for the younger crowd: Many in your audience won't have a college degree.
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3. Specificity Is the Rule When Using Photos
Specificity works well with photographs while broad or general photos will dilute your message and/or confuse your audience.
For example, if you're writing a memo to your employees about the importance of using a new content management system, attach a screenshot of the CMS and how they can log in to the system. Don't attach a general photo about content management if it's irrelevant to your message. A great photo will sell the audience on why they should continue reading the rest of your article.
4. Be Pleasant
Write in a pleasant tone of voice. An upbeat mood shows energy. It boosts morale and empowers your copy to leave a good impression about you and the company.
Positive copy creates goodwill. The business world may harbor cynicism and skepticism, but attaching negativity to your message will lessen your audience's receptivity to whatever you're writing about. And the next time you send an email, your audience will be less likely to open it.
Almost all corporate messages are meant to be constructive.
5. Hook Your Audience
If a tree fell in the middle of a forest but nobody heard the noise, would anyone care? If you published a brilliant paper but no one pays attention, does it matter?
In the corporate world, people are very impatient. Studies show that web users spend less than seven seconds viewing an article. Therefore, you need to hook your audience right away or they'll leave quickly. Business professionals and executives have a dozen other tasks to do aside from reading your copy.
Think of your copy as a fishing net cast at sea that needs to grab, and take hold of your audience's attention. Your title or headline should sell your article to a potential reader. But don't write misleading titles or you'll just alienate your audience. Use bold headings and bullet points to make your copy scannable.
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Business writers need to accommodate the expectations of the digital crowd. Simple and clear language is the golden rule in business writing followed by a pleasant and upbeat voice. You can optimize your copy by asking yourself how you can cut out unnecessary words and phrases while making your content more intelligent.