This is a hard pill to swallow for some, even if you are not a bad writer. As a business owner you will be required to write different types of documents to support your business. I hear people saying, “I’m not a writer”, but I argue that you need to be. You may not have to write at the same level as a published author, but you do have to be able to communicate using the written word.
When we think of a writer we think of these types of activities:
- marketing campaigns
Additional writing required in business
- website copy
- Facebook or other social media posts
- training instructions
- messages and memos
I’m sure there are more examples but I think you get my point. Your message must be clear so that the action required by the reader is understood. If you need to make an appointment via email you want to make sure both of you end up at the same place in the same time. Have you ever had this happen:
Confirmed Date: Time: Where:
You send an email with details for a meeting and the person agrees by email. When they read the email they misunderstood the choices which resulted in a missed meeting and a waste of your time. I have had this happen and I try to mitigate this challenge by confirming the meeting email with only the meeting details. Like this:
So what are the basics you need to know? Here are three that will help you with your writing responsibilities.
Write to a level that everyone can understand
I used to work in medical research. The doctor I worked for was an amazing woman. She was a PhD and an MD. She had patients, students, research colleagues, and she was the head of the BioPhysics department. Needless to say, she was intelligent, well read, and highly educated. I was young and new to the science we were studying. At a meeting one of her colleagues gave a presentation on his research that he planned on using at an upcoming conference. When he was done she asked me what I thought. I told her I had found it interesting but difficult to follow because I did not know his focus or the foundations of his science. “Exactly” she said, he spoke over your head. Even though the room at the conference will be filled with doctors and attendees that are intelligent, well read, and highly educated they will not have the same background or foundation of understanding. He must speak to the audience at a common level of understanding.
Even if you are writing a research paper, you must write at a common level of understanding so that your audience will have the foundational pieces to put your thoughts and ideas into context.
Have it reviewed
Everything you send out must be reviewed, including your emails and texts. This does not mean you need to hire an editor, but it might. At the very least you need to read through your copy at least once. I like to read it out loud to ensure what I thought I was writing and what I actually wrote are the same thing. You’d be surprised how often I catch errors this way.
If you are sending a document that can be used for legal purposes, like a contract, then having a lawyer or paralegal review it would be wise. For marketing collateral you definitely want to pay an editor to review it. They are trained to look for language that is confusing or wrong. I heard a story recently where the editor recommended a change to a document being used to secure a space for an annual event. The sponsorship-document wording stated an exact year. This meant when the event came up the following year the space they needed may not be available. The person did not take the advice of the editor and the space was not available.
A second example that you may be personally familiar with is the money wasted on professional printing for marketing collateral when you find an error on the final product – like the phone number is wrong. I had this happen to an image I had created. By editing the image I found the error in my website name. Can you imagine people seeing this image and not being able to get to my website because it was misspelled. Your potential clients are not going to go and Google search your website address. Don’t lose clients by making them jump through hoops to understand your intentions.
Easily fixed up front – A pain after the damage is done.
For other documents, having someone read through it may be enough to ensure it is easily understood. If you have a spelling mistake in a Facebook post it will be easily forgiven – as long as it is not a ‘Rob Ford’ sized mistake. Having a spelling mistake in a contract may cost you your income
Read and Practice
If you want to get good at something you have to practice. No one is great at something the very first time they try. I had been writing for over 20 years, but when I started blogging about 5 years ago I was nervous and overwhelmed. What would I write about? How will I find enough information? How will I find the time? The more I wrote the easier it became. This article took 45 minutes to write and 20 minutes for me to review. Then I had it reviewed by another person and updated. About 2 hours in total.
I suggest you also read often. The more I read, the more I have an opinion worth writing about. It gives me more content.
You do not have to be a world-class novelist to write for your business but you do have to know how to write. Even your emails can make a difference to a deal in your business so get good at it and read it over before you send it out. If you want to be known as intelligent, well read, and highly educated then communicate with your audience so they can understand you and then they will get value from what you have to say.