In writing for business, a few basic skills will stop your creative juices getting stuck in a sticky mess. A lack of inspiration is common, so too a loudly ticking timeframe. “I love deadlines”, wrote Douglas Adams, “I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Drifting away from your objective and feeling that you’re struggling to breathe, writing need not seem like a space disaster. Three simple thoughts will keep your feet on the ground.
Know your aim
In writing the opening line for a book about the first mission to the moon, I was looking for something that ticked several boxes. I needed a first line that would immediately make readers want to read more. In the end, I found something by keeping an eye on my aim.
Knowing your aim helps to clarify what needs to be included and what doesn’t. Think about what you need to say and the ideal length of your writing. How much room have you got? A methodical structure will help you say everything you need to in the space you have available.
Know your audience
Once you know what you want to do, the next step is to think about how to do it. Here, the golden rule is to think about your audience. Knowing your aim gives you a framework to operate within. Thinking of the audience helps you focus on how you want your message to come across. A friendly guide aimed at new joiners will take a different tone to a business pitch or a technical explanation. Tone can be warm and welcoming, dynamic and punchy or authoritative and unafraid of jargon.
It’s important to keep your text natural to who you are, avoid the pitfall of writing to impress. This is a risk for anyone who might feel the need to write something that matches up to ‘expectation’. Skip the tangled sentences. Keeping things simple is a better way to go.
Decide on your approach
Having decided on your direction and tone, the next step is to put it all together. In writing your material, whether it’s an email or a presentation, you’re looking to convey your message. Perhaps you might start by catching the reader’s attention before setting out the main message and then finishing in a way that underlines your point.
Catching attention can be done with a breezy opening statement, a short anecdote or a basic fact. Again, simple is best. Then comes the meat of your message. This can be underlined in a pithy conclusion that might even touch on the point you made at the beginning, always a tidy way to finish.
Along the way, you might get stuck for inspiration. Writer’s block affects everyone. You don’t have to wait until the wheels mysteriously start turning again. Go back to your aim. What are you trying to say? What have you said already, what do you need to say next?
“Please resign this minute”
It’s easy to make mistakes. When an aide wrote to Margaret Thatcher, saying “please can you resign this minute”, Thatcher replied: “Thank you dear, but I’d rather not.” In fact, the request related to the minutes of a meeting which the prime minister was being asked to re-sign. The original version was compelling, provocative and memorable, its only downfall was inaccuracy. Our eLearning course on Effective Business Writing offers help with such dangers.
In looking for the opening line to my book about going to the moon, I wanted to catch the reader’s attention with a simple, short question. The moment someone starts to think about an answer they are engaged. All the people later mentioned in the book shared one question in particular. What would the moon be like?