In an age when the written word is being devalued online, why is good writing more important to business now than at any time in the past?
Writing content that is clear, inspiring and grammatically spot-on is hard. Harder than it looks.
At a time when everyone believes they can write, thanks to user-generated content and multiple publishing platforms inside and outside companies, unearthing well-written content among rambling blogs and abbreviated Twitter posts gets rarer and rarer.
Even talented professional writers find it hard. Mark Twain once noted that “to get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement”.
But does good writing still matter? Why should the written word be more valued, especially in business?
Business communication gives us many opportunities for effective brand storytelling. From websites to Twitter, LinkedIn, and even job adverts, the writing tone, style and message paint a picture, form an impression.
Organisations need talented writers to tell stories and get messages across in an authentic, engaging way that translates well into the written word. Knowing how to tell a memorable business story using narrative, tone, style, and language is a skill and good writing can streamline procedures and paperwork, increasing staff productivity.
A well-written story goes beyond facts and data. Data informs the analytical side of the brain and can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act or change behaviour; to do that, you need to wrap your message in a story that fires the imagination and stirs an emotional response. Words that don’t connect with your audiences are just – well – words.
This isn’t something to be left to chance.
Inside organisations, we spend at least 15 to 20 per cent of our time writing for business: emails, memos, business letters, presentations and other correspondence. Missing these chances to engage, inspire, inform, and reinforce organisational values is a waste.
At work you need to clearly articulate your thoughts and ideas using the right tone, and proper basic grammar. You are judged on how you use ‘their/there’ or ‘your/you’re’.
When you put fingers to keyboard it’s because you need to communicate. If you write clearly (one idea per sentence, short-ish sentences, good grammar etc) you’re showing others that you’re professional.
You’re also making life easier for those reading your words – not taking up their time or brain space with unclear content that’s hard to understand or littered with company jargon/organisational shorthand that has the opposite effect to proving you’re smart. Communication should be inclusive and not exclude people who don’t understand your organisation’s many acronyms.
To some colleagues, perhaps it won’t matter. Not everyone will be sensitive to written errors and you will be forgiven for the odd typo here and there. But there’s a much bigger audience that’s influenced by social media. As digital journalist and commentator Cory Doctorow says, today’s audience is growing up with “an ecosystem of interruption technologies”. When you have their attention, you need to make the most of the opportunity.
Always imagine that your readers are looking for a reason to – in Tinder terms – swipe left on your prose.