How to keep your business writing skills up to date

Keeping your writing skills up to date is not a case of checking the most recent formatting or grammar updates. It is about learning what matters in the business and marketing world. Selling the sizzle has receded yet again and now we are back to selling the steak as we were in the 1950s, so what matters when trying to influence people these days?

Influencing people in a hyper-information society

People can bounce onto the Internet at almost any time and find out whatever they want. They do not even have to wait for books to be delivered in order to get detailed information because they can buy and read them right in the moment. You need to consider how you influence people in such a world, but before you do, consider this point: People buy things they never use!

Why does this matter? You have to look at it from a human nature perspective. People buy phones and never use 70% of its features, or buy tablets and only use them 18 days out of a year. Just because there is a World Wide Web full of information, and websites full of books, it doesn’t mean people are going to use them.

You can make a claim with your marketing and nobody will ever question it or check it. Want proof? Did you leave the article to check the “18 days” or “70%” claim made above? Or, did you read it and put it out of your mind? People may have access to worlds of information, but it doesn’t mean they will use it.

Consider your risk to reward

What is your risk to reward? It is the risk you face when you write or do something creative, compared to the reward you get through public appreciation. The bland, the boring and the sterile…has been done. Most business writers are keeping their work boring, bland and sterile because it is risk free. If you want to have an impact, you need to consider your risk to reward.

For example, Marc Howell took a risk when he made the joke “The results were like Muslims – some were good, some were Shi’ite.” (The Telegraph, 2008). He was unlucky because two days later somebody complained so later that week he quit.

The Lego Company took a risk when they made “The Lego Movie” (2014) that was kid friendly–but aimed at adults. Their risk paid off with a 96% great rating on Rotten Tomatoes and making a worldwide total of over $468 million. (Box Office, 2014).

Do not write as you speak

This may be okay if you are writing emails and such to people that you know intimately, but it doesn’t work well when you are writing to other people, business contacts, associates, suppliers, clients and customers. We do not read the way we speak, and it is very easy to misinterpret something because of the way it was written.

For example, you may have a business contact that uses foul language. When you meet that person face-to-face, you too may use foul language. However, if you were to put similar language in your emails to that person, he or she may take it the wrong way, or if it is leaked to the public or your boss, then they may also take it the wrong way.

Do not be too esoteric or use too many of your personal business words

The people you are communicating with may not understand all of the jargon and all the acronyms that exist in your industry. Nobody is saying you have to dumb it down, but at least consider the fact that some people are not going to be able to fully understand what you are writing.

If you use common expressions in your business, it may not translate very well. For example, if you call people a “carrot” when they mess up, then that is fine, but use it in your business writing and Welsh people (from the UK) will think you are calling that person a moron. Maybe you were, but it may cause trouble if you weren’t.

Prepared by eager geek, freelance journalist and regular contributor at essay.