By Dawn Josephson
Most businesspeople have great ideas, but when it comes to putting those ideas on paper, they ramble on for pages and end up looking less than professional. But in today’s communication age, with email trumping the phone and deals being done via text and social media, writing skills are of paramount importance. In fact, when your writing gets to the point quickly and effectively, you can enhance your credibility, position yourself as a leader, and ultimately increase your bottom line.
Following are the top three business writing mistakes that plague most business writing. Overcome them today to boost your professional presence.
Mistake #1 – Not knowing the specifics of your audience: Just as you would tailor your message depending on whether it was going to employees versus prospects, you also need to tailor your message to specific demographics within the larger identified group. For example, if you’re writing promotional materials for your product or service, and the majority of the people who do business with you are older, well-established professionals, you’ll want to highlight the product or service’s safety features, reliability record, or guarantee. However, if your main clientele were younger Millennial types, you’d want to emphasize the product or service’s trendy image, quick results, or easy to use/understand features. If you have an equal number of clients in both demographics, then you may even need two separate sales messages. One generic message rarely cuts it these days.
Therefore, before you write a word, really think about who’ll be reading what you write. Get into their heads. Talk to their precise needs, issues, or worries. And then craft your message specifically for them. The more you know your reader, the better you can reach them with your words.
Mistake #2 – Writing to impress rather than to express: The more successful a person is, the more often he or she thinks that big words and long documents impress people. In reality, just the opposite is true. People who try to write with the hopes to impress others with their knowledge only accomplish one thing: They lose the reader!
To make sure you’re expressing rather than impressing, examine each piece you write and distill its core message or purpose down to one or two sentence. If you can’t do that, then either your writing is not focused, or it’s so drawn-out that not even you can understand it. If that’s the case, then go back to each paragraph within the document and try to condense each down to one or two sentences. String those new sentences together, and then pinpoint your piece’s purposes. That’s the core message you want to express! Rewrite the document with the core message in mind, using common, everyday language. Remember, true genius is when you can explain your idea in such a way that a five-year-old child can understand it.
Mistake #3 – Talking down to your reader: Have you ever reread your own writing and said, “It sounds all wrong!”? That’s because the tone of your writing was likely wrong. Determining your writing’s tone is important, because a follow-up letter should not have the same tone as web copy.
Most businesspeople try to use an excessively formal tone in all their writing as a way to show their expertise. But realize that excessive formality often comes from a writer who is insecure with his or her authority. By using an overformal tone—complete with many technical terms, references to research studies when it’s not warranted, and referring to the reader as “one” rather than “you” (as in “one can see…” versus “you can see….)—the writer attempts to mask his or her insecurities. Most people don’t want to do business with someone who is insecure, so keep the tone of your writing conversational and approachable.
Write it Right: When you write better, you earn more. So no matter what you’re writing—whether it’s a sales letter, an email, or a press release—make sure you avoid these three business writing mistakes. Remember, your ability to write clearly and succinctly will make your writing stand out, and will enable you to reach new levels of success.
Dawn Josephson is a ghostwriter, editor, and writing coach who helps business leaders and professional speakers create engaging and informative books, articles, and marketing pieces.