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10 Tips To Help You Pack More Power Into Your Business Writing
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1. Before you write anything down define not what you want to say, but what your message must achieve. Keep that firmly in focus at all times and use it as the main goal for everything you write. Ask yourself "does this concept/approach /clever headline/earnest mission statement/ really help the message achieve its objectives?" If the honest answer is no, alter it or rethink it completely.
2. Identify your target audience and get to know them very well. No matter how beautifully structured your message is if it doesn't take into account the real circumstances and needs of the audience, it won't work. Align your message's objectives with these circumstances and needs.
3. Study the media you'll be using; be aware of how people will receive your message and where your message will be competing for their attention, use your common sense and creativity to make it stand out in the crowd. (Or if the crowd's too big, reconsider the choice of media if that's within your power.)
4. Now develop your message based on these issues, and add in the final magic ingredient... "what's in it for them?" Successful business messages are always based on benefits for the target audience - either actual or implied. Ensure you know the difference between features and benefits, and how to convert features into benefits.
5. Research the way your target audience speak and communicate, and phrase your message in their language - which may not necessarily be yours. Avoid corporate pomposity and unnecessary jargon. Talk to "you," not some vague third party, and keep your English as simple as possible, especially when your message is going to people who originate from other cultures.
6. Traditional grammar and even spelling mostly have been thrown out of the window. However there are still a few grammar rules you need to follow if you don't want your message to look amateurish. Your knowledge of the audience and how they communicate will dictate your writing style to a large extent. Don't let catchwords, "internet-speak," emoticons, etc. obscure your message or its benefits.
7. Time pressures and the influence of the internet have made us into a world of browsers, even when we're reading brochures and other print. Unless it's very short organise your offline text so readers who are browsing get the key points very easily. Always separate technical detail and other lengthy data from the main text so readers aren't obliged to plod through it unless they want to.
8. Never be tempted to transplant text written for print into an online environment. Online text is as different from offline text as a PC screen is from paper. Because reading from screens is so unfriendly, online text must be very short and crisp and must make it extremely easy for readers to absorb the key points. Don't let web designers talk you into flamboyant graphics that could inadvertently swamp your message.
9. When you give a speech, make sure you write it for yourself and your natural way of speaking - not your (or someone else's) idea of how an important business person should speak in public. Use a tape recorder to get an objective view of your voice, style, weaknesses and strengths. Keep sentences short with only one idea in each. Avoid telling jokes unless you're naturally funny. And rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
10. If you think you may be out of your depth with a business writing project (e.g. a TV commercial, major direct marketing campaign, complex video or business theatre script) you're probably right - so call in a professional writer. Don't risk embarrassing yourself or your organisation with an attempt that's amateurish - there's no shame in admitting you can't be an expert at everything!
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