Blog & Company News
Jun 6, 2013
Eight Ways to Resuscitate Your Sentences
As a business owner, pounding out emails, developing reports and writing letters come naturally. You might even charge yourself with marketing-related projects, such as crafting web content, compiling a company newsletter or creating marketing materials.
So you write. A lot. But does your writing have the impact it could? Are you sending your best message out into the world?
Compelling copy does more than communicate your message. It makes your company stand out, attracts new customers and keeps existing ones coming back. Good web content makes the difference between a prospect leaving your site after 10 seconds or hanging out for awhile.
Sure, your sentences might follow grammatical rules, but switching things up a little makes your message pop.
1. Use strong verbs. Verbs inject spirit into your sentences. If you really want to enliven your writing, eliminate "to be" verbs. They water down writing, making it bland. Make your message memorable by replacing those boring standbys with verbs that sing.
2. Avoid corporate jargon. Words like "utilize," "core competencies," and "strategic planning" appear ubiquitously throughout the business world. These words don't convey action. Instead, try "use," "skills," and "planning." (Aren't all plans strategic?) Using shorter, more conversational words clarifies your message, helping others to understand your intention.
3. Translate jargon into words everybody can understand. You speak industry lingo everyday, but not everybody knows the definition of "feasibility study." Explain what you mean in layman's terms to help your prospects understand how you can help them. Simple doesn't mean unintelligent. It means easy to understand.
4. Reduce acronym usage. Too many acronyms causes confusion, and companies often create acronyms to shorten really long program names. As a result, readers spend their energy remembering each acronym's meaning instead of focusing on your message. Help your reader by shortening the name on second reference. Call it "the program," "the analysis," or "the study."
5. Vary sentence length. When people read, they say the words to themselves inside their heads. That means the writing has to flow. Too many sentences of similar lengths create monotony. Generate interest by inserting a short sentence in between two long sentences, or after a few longer ones. In business writing especially, sentences tend to grow long with many ideas. Spice it up with short sentences.
6. Use active voice, not passive voice. Instead of saying "The report was prepared by the president," write, "The president prepared the report." Passive voice avoids assigning responsibility to people. That might sound good if someone accidently set off the alarm system, but not so awesome when making your writing inspire action. Give every action an owner, and your writing will improve.
7. Ax excess words. Your readers value their time. You should value your readers time, too, by stating your point concisely. Instead of "consensus of opinion," write, "consensus." Try
"proximate," instead of "close proximity."
8. Protect verbs from morphing into nouns. Business content often speaks of "a plan" or "receipt." Verbs form the very life of your sentences. Turning them into nouns deadens your words. Instead, write, "We received" and "They plan."