Writing successful copy for business takes time and skill. There’s an art to creating clear, persuasive, informative text that resonates with your target audience. For your business writing to have maximum impact, you need to approach it with a keen eye, while keeping several main strategies in mind. No matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, below are eight lessons that every business writer needs to remember to create killer copy.
The majority of companies have a content style guide with guidance to help their writers standardize brand voice, grammar guidelines, accessibility standards, inclusive language, and much more. But more on that later! For now let’s dive into our eight business writing guidelines to remember:
1. Strike the right tone
Your organization’s tone of voice is a crucial element in establishing and enhancing its brand. It needs to be consistent across all your written communications so that your customers and prospects automatically associate it with your company. Going rogue and writing in an entirely new tone of voice is confusing for customers, employees, and other users. It can come across as unprofessional and lacking in authority, so stick with your company’s designated tone of voice to help build trust. For example, at your company, are you conversational or formal, and do you write in the active voice or passive voice?
Need help with creating and maintaining your company’s tone of voice? Check out this great resource.
2. Get to the point quickly
These days, people simply don’t have the time or inclination to read thousands of words. Focus on the important messages and get to what matters quickly. You don’t want readers to switch off before you’ve even gotten started. The best way to do this is to make sure content is scannable, so that it’s easy for your reader to find the most important information. Try to include subheadings, lists, and tables so the structure of your document is accessible to a wide audience. This means your readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and turn that information into action.
3. Be clear and concise
Using plain language is so important that there’s now a plain writing law. It requires federal agencies to communicate in a clear way so the public can understand. You should be following the same principles when it comes to your business content. What’s the point in writing something if your audience has to work really hard to understand it? Last time we checked, you don’t get any bonus points for using fancy words or long, complicated sentences. So it’s best to keep words, sentences, paragraphs, and punctuation clear and concise. Imagine you’re writing for someone who has absolutely no experience in your subject matter and keep your language simple.
4. Illustrate your points with specifics
Don’t be vague. If you’re telling a prospect that a new piece of software saves time and resources, then illustrate it with specific examples. Explain that it automates time-consuming tasks like filing or database management. People don’t just want to know that a certain product will change their lives, they also want to know how. Make sure you’re giving them the information they’re looking for. This is an opportunity to reference a great customer story or case study that underlines the point you’re trying to make.
5. Remember the goal
What do you want your customer or the person who’s just read a page of your website to do once they’ve finished? Does that come across in your copy? If you want them to buy a product, is your writing style persuasive enough? Have you demonstrated how the product will solve their problem? Make sure your readers know exactly what the next step is for them and gently encourage them to take it.
6. Forget formal (well, most of the time)
You want to connect with your audience, so avoid using impersonal, stuffy language. Write as if you’re talking to the person face-to-face, so address them personally. Using contractions such as “you’re” instead of “you are” is another way to sound friendlier and more approachable. While there may be a few exceptions to this technique (legal contracts might be one), business writing, in general, is becoming more casual. And that’s true whether you’re in banking or working for a tech startup. The trick is finding the right level of informality for your particular audience.
7. Avoid jargon and clichés
Overused phrases like “hit the ground running” and “thinking outside the box” feel generic and uninspired. They make your copy sound bland, routine, and indistinguishable. If you want to produce interesting, thought-provoking pieces, then ditch the tired clichés and use a more authentic style that finds other ways to express your ideas. Likewise, filling your content with industry jargon that not everyone understands is a guaranteed way to turn people off. Avoid it as much as you can.
8. Go back to edit and proofread
The trick to good writing is not just what you put down on the page, but what you take out. Check for unnecessary words that you can remove, for grammatical errors, and for other ways to punch up your copy and make it pithier. When you’re close to a piece of writing, it’s very easy to miss spelling and grammar mistakes, or other opportunities to make improvements. Getting fresh eyes on the page will help pick up any errors and save you from potential embarrassment. There’s no shame in asking for help.
Technology can help!
Lots of companies standardize their content by following corporate guidelines, which are often formalized in a style guide. Content improvement technology, like Acrolinx, digitizes your style guide, which means your content guidelines are available to all writers, all the time. And it keeps it dynamic — so you can be sure every content creator has access to the very latest standards about the way your enterprise communicates. Whether that’s one style, or several.
Content improvement technology adds velocity to your content creation process, by guiding writers to meet your content standards. When all your content creators build content that reflects your brand, you make your strategy a reality and help your organization speak with one clear voice. Learn more about how to create a content style guide in our guide.