School did not prepare you to write for your business. There, I said it. I am a retired English teacher, so let me explain what I mean.
At some point you were taught to not change paragraphs until you finished talking about a topic. Remember writing a paragraph that went on for a whole page? Forget that advice. Readers’ attention spans are not that long, and you are not writing for an English teacher.
Did you learn that every paragraph needs a topic sentence and supporting sentences? Or maybe you learned that every paragraph needs five sentences. And of course, you learned that the average expository essay has five paragraphs.
Forget all that.
Did you see what I just did? I wrote a one sentence paragraph. And, if you want to get technical, that sentence is missing a true subject and is only using an implied one. Horror!
Oops, I did it again. I used a one-word statement and followed it with an exclamation mark! Yikes! Oops! Okay, once you start it can be a slippery slope, so use that technique sparingly.
Finally, you no doubt were taught to write in third person. Don’t use I or you. Again, forget that, too. For business writing, you are writing to someone—your customer. You want to be personal and establish a relationship with your reader. You want to gain their trust and build your credibility.
In fact, throughout your schooling you were most likely taught academic writing. That comes in really handy when you are writing essays and research papers in college, but in the real world, if you are a business owner trying to write to your customers you may be unprepared.
So, if all those “rules” are wrong, what is one to do? (See how that pesky third person word “one” sounds so stuffy and awkward?)
Well, in addition to teaching English, I also taught journalism. There are several journalism rules that apply to business writing that will help you write to your customers in an effective way.
- Keep it short.
- Use short paragraphs.
- Use short sentences.
- Use as few words as possible to get your meaning across.
- If in doubt, leave it out.
- Keep it simple.
- Use simple words your reader will understand.
- Keep sentence structure simple.
- Write for an 8th grade reading level.
- Keep your reader in mind at all times.
- And finally, the most important one of all: Say what needs to be said and STOP!