A word in your ear

One of the paradoxes of human existence is the ease with which we can misunderstand each other. Like birds on the wing, we chatter constantly, yet ambiguity and assumption can so easily getting the way. Relationships can end and business deals lost because what was heard was not what we were trying to say.

Written communication can be harder to understand, especially at work where jargon, acronyms and the urge to use ‘business speak’ can render our messages unintelligible. We’ve all seen those official documents that try so hard to be explicit, yet fail totally because the wrong words are used in the wrong sequence.

So here are ten simple ways to write it like it is:
1. Decide what you want your reader to do after reading your copy, before you start writing it.
2. Remember that if you have to look up the meaning of a word, it’s the wrong word.
3. Telling stories and using metaphor makes your messages more memorable.
4. So does alliteration!
5. Pictures with captions can say more than pages of words alone.
6. Keep sentences short: use punctuation to break up the flow.
7. The better you’ve researched your reader the easier it is to write words that will influence them.
8. Always include a call to action – tell your reader what you’d like them to do next.
9. Testimonials are more credible than self written praise – help people write testimonials about you.
10. The more you read the better your writing will become.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, to your reader it should appear to have been written just for them. If you are writing at work, you are writing to influence. Your words need to be as personal as if whispered into each reader’s ear.

Robert Ashton is a best selling business author, social entrepreneur and campaigner. ‘Teach Yourself Copywriting in a Week’ was published by Hodder Education in February 2012.

Follow Robert on Twitter: @robertashton1

Posted on: December 14, 2012

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Sandi Mann

Dr Sandi Mann is Senior Psychology Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire and Director of Advantage Psychology, a successful business consultancy based in the North West of England. She is a Chartered Psychologist and has written a number of psychology self-help books. Sandi works with a range of businesses in the private and public sector, helping in areas such as stress management, customer care, deception management and employee motivation. She is also a regular contributor to many professional journals, such as Professional Manager where she writes on issues as diverse as humour in the workplace to emotion management at work.

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