As we tumble towards 2016, good business writing skills are becoming more important than ever. But why, you might ask, is writing more important now than at any other time in the past? Surely the advent of the modern information revolution has taken the premium away from the written word and placed it on electronic media?
The truth is that, thanks to the Internet, we now have access to more of the written word than any previous generations. When you consider how much is out there quietly lurking in cyberspace, it really is rather terrifying. In terms of business, companies advertise online for clients, new recruits and media attention and correspond online with their customers and with other parts of their organization. This plethora of words is why it is so important to choose the right ones.
What makes good business writing?
I'm sure there has been the odd occasion where a confusing text or email has left you frustrated. At the heart of successful business writing is clear communication. Great writing recognises the difference between ‘it's' and ‘its', and avoids spelling mistakes. It is also clear and to the point. In fact you could say that proper business writing, like any quality writing, is the sworn enemy of jargon.
Why does business writing matter?
1) It wins customers
How many times have you struggled to make sense of a website or email sent to you by a business? Too much of the online content we come across on a daily basis is either sloppy, with dozens of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, or an abundance of business jargon. Quite often, this poor writing seems to be trying to hide any meaning the message had. The result of such bad business writing is to irritate potential customers or investors and confuse fellow professionals.
Effective business writing, on the other hand, oils the wheels of a successful business, slickly smoothing out the information which needs to be assimilated and presenting it in a clear way. When a business communicates clearly, customers understand what is being said and do not feel they are being mislead, whatever medium they access the writing through. Content writing is of particular importance in this respect. We know, from many surveys, that a sizeable number of people are put off by direct marketing and direct advertising. Content marketing avoids this by providing a good read; the marketing is indirect and all the more effective for it.
Houses built on sand will crumble: succinct presentations sell ideas and goods, whilst dull or bad ones send the audience off into a light doze. In the same vein, no number of glossy photos can save a sales brochure full of jargon; but a brochure written in clear and attractive English pleases the mind, as well as the eye. The same is true of advertising matter - well-written advertising copy intrigues and excites; badly written copy either baffles or repels.
In short, a business that writes well is a business that will, in the present state of affairs, stand out from the Internet crowd. Effective business writing makes the company's advertising and social media pages places that people want to visit. Like the old BBC motto, they will ‘entertain' as well as ‘inform and educate.'
2) It helps companies work well
Regardless of which industry you work in, a company that encourages and fosters a culture of superior business writing at all levels of its staff will soon begin to feel the benefits. Well-written job advertisements will attract a higher standard of new recruits, whilst a culture of clear writing will ensure that a business and its employees can communicate without confusion.
Think of how many e-mails, reports, presentations, brochures, advertisements and visual aids are generated and sent each and every day. All of these carry useful, important information for someone. Consider the boss passing on information or instructions by e-mail. If they express themselves clearly then they will be immediately understood. If they are being vague, then time will be wasted clarifying the point to puzzled subordinates. Even more time will be wasted if the puzzled juniors express their questions badly or unclearly.
3) It increases sales and customer retention
Consider also the manufacturing company that publishes a set of sloppily written instructions for one of its products. The bemused customer accidentally breaks the machine they have bought. The result: returns, complaints, refunds and a bad review that circles the Internet. This situation could have been avoided by better writing.
In fact not only could it have been avoided, the opposite could have been achieved: satisfied customers, positive word of mouth, excellent reviews and increased sales. Clearly, effective business writing within an organization paves the way for increased productivity and increased sales and customer retention.
Business writing matters
In a business world that is full of circulating information, the company that writes well is a company that stands out. It communicates well within itself, so everyone knows what to do. Better yet, it communicates clearly and memorably with its customers, thus reaping all the rewards of increased sales and customer satisfaction that its efforts have earned.
With so much of our attention focused on screens, social media sites, and the virtual world, it can be tempting to limit our communication to as short a sentence or paragraph as possible. However, if you want your company to perform more effectively, you need to remind them of the importance of communicating clearly.
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