Top tips to improve writing for business

Part of my job is to write. A skill I’ve never been formally taught. I compose copy for my own business but usually I’m writing marketing content for my clients. Content that will get used in many formats including websites, press releases, newsletters, case studies and blogs. Marketeers of a certain age will remember well those dreaded instruction manuals. These frequently had to be both multi-lingual and, hopefully, intelligible to the reader, as they used their new tool or technological innovation for the first time. Thankfully, user manuals have mostly been confined to the pages of history.
If you’ve been assigned the task of copywriting to implement a new website or ‘delegated’ the job of the company blog or monthly newsletter, don’t despair. There are sources of help out there. The late Gary Provost and author of “100 ways to improve your writing” was a true expert. One of my favourite tips concerns varying sentence length, which I’d like to share with you here. Gary wrote:
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”
The simple technique of variation of sentence length adds interest to the piece. By making the text more interesting and the storyline more relevant to the reader, you are more likely to be heard. Marketers call this ‘engaging your audience’.
So, once your first draft is complete, try to take a break and come back and review it later. Perhaps make yourself a cup of tea. Perhaps go to lunch or leave the review until the next day. Coming back more than once to the text is valuable, as you will edit it with different eyes each time.
Try to review your draft by reading out loud from a printed, paper copy. The brain processes information on a screen and information on a piece of paper differently, so a printed copy is worthwhile here. As you read, be aware of the speed. If you speed up, you are bored! If your sentences trail off at the end, you’re bored! And if you’re bored with your own article, imagine how your audience will be reacting! It sounds silly, but if you run out of breath, your long sentences need splitting up into two shorter ones. Stumbling over a sentence could mean your punctuation or sentence construction is wrong. Try re-writing it and read it aloud again.
So writing for businesses need not be arduous, but you do need to plan well in advance. Think about your story and key points. Then think about your sentence construction and how it actually ‘reads’. Finally leave sufficient time to review your words more than once before you publish them
Happy marketing!