Whether you are writing a report or a letter it’s important to keep in mind who you are writing for: real people! Copywriter and writing skills trainer Hilary Phillips from Cygnus Extra shares her top tips on remembering and writing for your audience.
Business writing is written to be read. You’ll have a reason for writing and your reader will have a reason for reading. Whatever it is you are writing at work – report, correspondence, blog copy or marketing materials – thinking about the audience as real people with a compelling reason for reading your content will make all the difference.
Why are you writing?
It sounds almost too obvious, but make sure you know the purpose of your writing. What do you hope to achieve? Is it clear in your writing? Taking time to think this through before you write can bring a new level of clarity and really help your reader.
Who are you writing for?
Thinking about purpose will lead naturally on to focusing on your audience. Who is the primary audience for your writing? Who else might read it? What are they interested in? What level of detail do they need? What order should I put material in? So many questions spill out when you start thinking about the reader and their needs. All of them will help you to sharpen up the relevance of your content. If you don’t think about who your audience is when you write you may well end up writing for yourself. That might not sound like a tragedy, but your selfish use of jargon and acronyms, your determination to share every scrap of knowledge, your complex reasoning, your attitudes connected with the topic, may not help your cause.
What does your reader look like?
Perhaps that sounds irrelevant, but not so. Picture your reader. Think in terms of an audience of one. You may know your reader well or you may need to do some research. Either way, use that knowledge to shape your writing. Choose the tone of voice to suit.
What problem are they trying to solve?
Do you really know what it is that your reader is trying to do when they read what you’ve written? There’s a great quote in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, which captures some of this. Atticus Finch says to Scout:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.”
The more we can see things from our reader’s perspective the better business writers we will become. Our arguments will be more compelling because our content will be more relevant.
Don’t leave your personality at home
Let’s face it, it’s much more engaging to have a conversation with someone who shows a little bit of wit and sparkle. So why write in a dull, dry style? Business writing comes alive when you bring your personality into the equation. Use your writing to demonstrate your interest, your passion, your commitment to the topic.
Hilary Phillips is a business copywriter who devotes much of her time and energy to helping organisations communicate more clearly. She will be delivering a course on Effective writing skills for professionals in Edinburgh on Wednesday 26 September. Visit her website at cygnus-extra.co.uk