The need for effective writing in the business world has never been greater than it has been since the dawn of the internet. Yet, effective business writing can still be summed up in two words: Tone and Clarity.
When you’re writing for a company, your words are serving as a reflection of the company’s standards and values. It’s the writer’s responsibility to accurately and consistently communicate those standards and values to the public, customers, internal staff and company shareholders.
A company’s website content and company blogs are the most visible examples of a company’s standards and values and this is where you should be extremely diligent in regard to your message’s tone and clarity.
Use a Tone that Fits the Message
There’s a trend these days to use a more casual, upbeat tone in business writing and to pepper the writing with current slang terms. This is especially prevalent in younger start-ups and tech companies. A lot of these companies and their products appeal to a younger demographic and are staffed by people of that same age group.
It makes perfect sense for them to use a tone and language that their customer base and staff can relate to. However, you need to use this tone and language wisely. After all, it’s still a business.
Don’t use any slang terms that aren’t universally known and well-accepted if your writing is to be published on your company website.
Adopting this casual tone and language can also backfire on you when you’re trying to explain a technical policy or company concept, as slang can be easily misunderstood.
Using a casual tone can backfire even worse when you’re relating some bad company news to your shareholders or staff. Trying to sugarcoat a bitter pill will make your writing seem insincere and forced. It makes the company seem like they’re making light of the information they’re conveying.
It can also be seen as patronizing to its readers – not a good tone to use for a company that needs the support of their shareholders and staff. As a rule, I would only use the casual tone for lighthearted news and stories about the company.
Write Precisely and Clearly
The need for precision in your business writing should always override any tone you might choose. The internet is a global economy and you need to write to appeal to as wide a segment of the population as possible.
Clarity over cleverness is the order of the day. This also means keeping corporate jargon to a bare minimum and including definitions of the more obscure corporate terms you need to use for context.
If your company is international in scope, the need for precise writing becomes even more important as the words you use will probably be translated and interpreted into several different languages.
If you are translating your website into different languages, don’t use members of your staff who speak those languages as anything other than proofreaders. Just because someone speaks a foreign language doesn’t make them a qualified translator. A qualified translator doesn’t just translate words. They also look at the context of what you’re saying to give as complete and accurate a translation as possible.
Hire a professional, reputable translation service that has a demonstrated track record of corporate translation abilities. Also, assume that your viewers and potential customers will also use Google’s translator at times.
This is another reason to write as simply and clearly as you can. Google’s translator leaves a lot to be desired in the clarity department. You don’t want to make it any harder for it to go about its job.
Using the right tone and adopting a standard of clarity in writing for a company can have a very real impact on a company’s ongoing profitability. Whether it’s a large or small impact all comes down to the abilities and skill of the writer.