Columnist . Joe Zeigler
The only inviolable rule of effective business writing
From our first days in elementary school, we are drilled in the rules of sentence structure, punctuation and word choice. However, with all due respect to English teachers everywhere, the rules of writing are not absolute.
When composing sentences, it is often acceptable to place a preposition at the end. And one can begin a sentence with a conjunction. Fragmented sentence? No problem. Colloquialisms? Fuggettaboutit!
Written communication in general is taking on a more conversational tone, largely as an outcome of email, texts and social media replacing much of the interaction that once transpired in person or on the phone. As people talk more with their fingertips than their tongues, the rules of writing are relaxing, and we are learning to infuse greater clarity and expressiveness into our prose.
So feel free to exercise your own creativity and style. There are exceptions to every writing rule. Except one.
The only inviolable rule of effective writing is this: Always write to your audience.
When writing for business, your objective is to persuade target readers to take action of some kind: Read my book. Visit our website. Call for an estimate. Partner with me on a project. Send referrals.
However, before you can rouse them to action, you must first gain their interest and their trust. To achieve this, look at your offering through the eyes of your target reader. Get inside their heads. Who are they? Where do they live? What motivates their decisions? What makes them tick? What makes them ticked-off? Why should they do business with you? Why might they choose to do business with your competition? Answer these questions before you begin to write.
As is human nature, people would rather read about themselves than they would you or your company. Your understanding of the readers’ desires and motivations, prepares you to relate to them through words that will draw them in. Then you are ready to bridge readers to your product or service benefits, and encourage them to act.
Microbusiness proprietors that write effectively, first view content through the eyes of their intended audience.