Ask 100 writers how to write more effectively and you’ll get at least 101 different pieces of advice.
To my mind before anyone can start handing out advice of this kind a critical issue must be resolved: what kind of readers are you trying to reach?
Without this information the advice of one writer or even a million will be of little value. So here’s what I would want to know.
Are you writing for the person lounging on a beach who likes to read a blockbuster or two? Bear in mind this was written before the Coronavirus outbreak!
Or are your words meant for the hard-pressed, time-poor business person who’s trying to track down some information?
To put it another way, is your target reader likely to be devouring your words for entertainment or scanning them for information, perhaps because they’re on some kind of mission?
If it’s the former, then I’m afraid this article isn’t really for you. But I’m sure I’ll get round to providing writing advice that’s suitable for you very soon.
Inform and persuade
Today, however, I have my sights on that other kind of writer. The person who needs to write something as part of their job and is looking to inform and persuade rather than to entertain.
Maybe you are wanting to pass on some useful advice to the rest of the world, or you’re trying to get someone to change their mind about something.
Perhaps even get them to invest in one of your products or services?
Best writing advice
In other words, you’re a copywriter or some kind of business writer. So what’s the best writing advice for someone like you?
Well, before we answer that, it’s worth returning to that beach, where we left our paperback-reading, deckchair-bound holidaymaker.
Just look at them. This is someone who is relaxed and with all the time in the world.
Amused and entertained
When they sit down to read their book, they expect to be amused and entertained.
And because they’re on holiday, they’re in a slightly more forgiving and tolerant mood.
They’re likely to be less picky and more inclined to give the writer the benefit of the doubt. After all, that’s what you do when you’re reading for entertainment and sitting on a beach, all chilled out.
Hard-pressed business person
Now let’s leap back to the office of our hard-pressed business person, where we see the exact opposite is true.
This person is in a hurry and even seems a bit grumpy. They are in no mood for forgiveness or tolerance. They want information and they want it NOW.
That, my friend, is the kind of person you’re writing for.
Imagine they pick up a document or land on a web page that you've written? How will they cope with your prose?
Will they lap up every word with enthusiasm and delight, or will they give up at the earliest opportunity? The odds seem to be stacked against you.
Your only hope is to write something that addresses their needs, but also allows for their grumpiness. A piece of text that somehow captures their attention and holds it, without unsettling them or antagonising them.
Sounds like a tall order. But the truth is, once you know what you’re doing, it’s relatively easy. The secret lies in putting yourself inside the head of this person and seeing the world through their eyes.
Consider what is going through their mind and what they are trying to achieve. What information would be most useful to them? And what’s the most helpful way in which to present it?
Once you start asking these questions, the answers become obvious.
You must present the information in the way that is most convenient for the reader and makes most sense to them.
Get to the point
That means you must get to the point quickly and tell your story in as few words as possible.
It means you need to lay the text out on the page or screen in a way that makes it look inviting and easy to read.
It also means that you have to explain everything from the reader's perspective, rather than from yours.
These simple pieces of writing advice can do wonders for the readability and overall effectiveness of your writing.
Words that connect
If you structure and write your text to take into account all the peculiarities of this hard-to-please reader, the chances are your writing will connect with them.
Your words will get past their grumpiness and intolerance and you will have won yourself a satisfied reader. And who knows, perhaps a potential customer.
So my writing advice to you is clear and simple.
Writing for business
If you’re writing for business and you want your words to be read, put yourself in the shoes of your most difficult reader. Target your writing to their needs and peculiarities and you’re likely to succeed.
Not just with the impatient or bad-tempered readers, but with everyone.
Give it a try now. You can do it and you won’t need to consult 100 writers to achieve success.
Our business writing courses
At Strawberry Training we run a number of tailored business writing courses. These will help you write more effectively and enable you to engage even the most challenging reader.
To learn more about our business writing courses, or to make a booking, call: 020 8773 4718.
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org