That’s the golden rule of great business writing. If you feel your words are boring, the reader will sense it and flee. Will they take action? No, of course not. Would you?
How can I make something boring more interesting?
Remember, everything is interesting if you see it from the right angle. It’s the angle you need to change.
For example… ask a coin collector the best way to store rare coins. Ask a new parent how their kid is getting on with others in play-school. Ask a golf fan what’s the best putter. Sit back and listen. They’ll have a lot to share. They’ll talk for hours. It’s all about getting the right angle and developing your content from there.
Tip: No-one buys great grammar – but we relate to stories that involve us.
7 Business Writing Cures
And it’s the same in business. To make your business documents more interesting (proposals, grants, or technical documents) find some way to engage the reader.
Ask yourself: what’s going to make my grant application, business proposal, or white paper so interesting that they’ll read it word for word and (more than likely) ignore the rest.
In other words, look for the ‘human story’ and see where you can add this. Here’s a few ways to do it.
- We’re all in this together – You know that you should use ‘you’ when writing business documents. That’s fine except it wears thin after a while. A better way to engage with the reader is to encourage him/her to bring you into their world. For example, write about the problems they may be having and how you’d help if… they gave you the chance to help. Don’t sugarcoat it. Highlight how you’d see this as a challenge and the different ways you’d step up to the task. Sound confident, not desperate.
- Show Them the Money – Instead of burying the figures at the back of the document, be upfront about it. Show them what you plan to charge and why you believe you’re worth the money.
- Be Confident in Your Own Abilities – Hiding or smothering costs towards the end of the document sends the wrong signals. Confidence is contagious. Strike the right chord from the start and write from there.
- Read Cosmo – Some of the best headlines I’ve written have been inspired by Cosmo. As a business writer don’t limit yourself to trade journals and the ‘usual suspects’. Make sure to read other magazines that give you new ideas. Keep a swipe file (I use Google Docs and Evernote) to record great headlines and ideas that I come across.
- Give Examples – Many business documents fail as they focus on the abstract (theory) and not the concrete (real world). If you plan to use white papers, case studies, and other marketing collateral, bring them to life with real examples of customers using your products. Again, don’t sugarcoat the document too heavily. Discuss the real problems they had and the steps (warts and all) you took to overcome these issues.
- Less is Better – You’re not in college anymore. There are no rewards for writing long documents. Trim the fat. Your readers are in a hurry. Get to the point. Fast. They’ll thank you for it.
- Use Color – Don’t forget to add a splash of color, add a few diagrams and charts if these help. Try to limit your color palatte to three colors and, if possible, get it to blend with your corporate style guide.
- Would you buy It? – The acid test. Would you buy what you’ve written about? If your business proposal was sheer drudgery to read… have a guess what it will be like for others. And remember they may have a mountain of business proposals to read through before they get to yours.
Your customers – and potential customers – are under no obligation to read your documents. Flirt with them a little. Use snappy headlines to get their attention. Draw them in. Make them want to turn the page and read what’s next.
Business documents are sales documents in disguise. If you’re not selling, you don’t stay in business, right?
Here’s a final suggestion. Write the business document from a technical prospective first, i.e. draft it with all the facts, figures, stats, specs, and other hard data. Then develop a narrative that dresses up the information in an elegant way. Not garish but with a little flair. See the difference?
What other ways do you add a little sparkle to your business documents?