You have a team that’s full of highly-educated, intelligent and super-qualified people. You think they shouldn’t need any help using the written word.
And yet the communications they create – from white papers, through to customer letters, policies and web pages – are lifeless and boring. So what’s going on?
Commercial writing is different
It doesn’t matter how well your teams did at university or in school, the approach they learned to communicating there just doesn’t cut it in a commercial environment.
When you write for commercial audiences, you’re writing for people who have very little interest in what you’ve written – so you have to make it interesting and relevant to them straight away.
Commercial writing has nothing to do with showcasing your intelligence. In fact, it’s got very little to do with you at all. It’s all about conveying information rapidly, pleasingly and interestingly.
Get to the point
For example, in a university essay or a report, it’s normal to set out an argument, develop it, and then come to the conclusion.
In commercial writing, though, you need to flip this idea on its head and get to the point straight away. Why? Because most commercial readers will only give your writing a quick glance – and if they don’t see anything interesting immediately, they’ll turn to something else.
Unlike your university tutor, a commercial reader owes you nothing – and you can’t force them to read a single word you’ve written. Instead, you need to waste as little of their time as you can by clearly setting out what the communication is about and why it’s relevant to them.
Styles of writing and communicating that guarantee high marks in university can bomb in a commercial environment.
A university tutor might award marks to students who can string long, obscure words together in complex sentences. But in a commercial setting, long sentences can sound waffly and unsure. Instead of conveying intelligence, they feel like they lack confidence.
University essays are about impartiality and evidencing your beliefs. This often means using the passive voice – which removes emotion from prose.
Your commercial reader, however, is making decisions based on emotion. If she or he doesn’t find emotion in your writing, it’s a turn-off.
There isn’t just one way of writing well. If you’re writing in a commercial setting for commercial audiences, it might be time to learn to communicate in a commercial way.