How to Write for the Bottom Line

By Sue Stoney, The Message Crafter

Untitled2If you don’t have “writer” or “editor” in your title but you have to write for business, this article has information you need to know.

Whether you work for another company or for yourself, you know that business is built on a return-on-investment (ROI) model.

Ask yourself these 7 questions about any business communication project:

  1. Do I have a writer inside of me? (The Message Crafter’s answer is “yes” – for everyone.)
  2. Do I know how to (want to) write this kind of communication?
  3. Can I (Do I want to) learn how to write this way? (“Can I” – “yes” – “Do I want to” – maybe.)
  4. What is the audience for this piece and why am I (we) writing it now?
  5. What ROI will my company and I get if I do the writing this time?
  6. What connection does the business communication have with my area of expertise?
  7. Will I (we) benefit from a collaboration with others on this piece? (That’s a resounding “yes”.)

I believe that everyone has an inner writer. Your English teacher was right – you write best about that which you know well and are passionate about.

Think about it: Everyone is a subject matter expert about something, and if you’re among the fortunate who are doing not only what you’re good at but what you love to do, you are the perfect choice to write about (or be involved in the writing of) any business communication related to your expertise.

Look again at question no. 7. It is predicated on the belief that excellent writing Untitledpresupposes editing as part of the process. And whether you’re the only writer (I hope not) or the primary writer for this communication piece – blog article series, e-book, product demo, newsletter, email marketing, white paper, what have you – you had better have other readers (professional editors if you can find them) reviewing your business communication.

The investment in human resources will pay off in the results that will come from the finished product.

Collaborative writing always produces a better result…

But that statement has a caveat: Collaboration works best as long as everyone understands his or her role in the process.

If you’re an IT expert, for example, and the primary writer, should you review your own work? Yes. But if grammar, syntax, punctuation and spelling are not your strong suits, leave the task of copyediting to someone who is the expert on those things.

Are these components of good language usage important to your message? Of course. Just think about the last time you were drawn into reading a blog only to be stopped dead by bad usage litter. Or remember what your job search coach said about resumes filled with errors and where they end up (in the round file, otherwise known as the garbage can).

Readability is the single-most important contributing factor that helps people advance (or not) through your written word. So leave the copyediting to language experts, and you review your writing for how it portrays you, your brand, your knowledgebase. If you happen to catch some of those other errors, all well and good; just keep your focus on what you know best.

Other collaborators should also be experts in your industry if not in your field. Why? Because, as the primary writer, you are going to reach the point sometimes referred to as “too close to the blackboard”. You will want others to have your back who are good at and knowledgeable about what you do. They can help you be objective and step away from that blackboard.

And, yes, remember to be your own editor. Walk away from your work at key junctures. When you come back to it, take your writer’s cap off and put your editor’s cap on. The fresh pair of eyes helps you gain perspective on what to keep, what to throw away, what to change and what to leave alone.

What does good writing have to do with ROI? Ask your successful competitor.

Do you or someone you know need help with writing or editing? Or would you like an introduction to your own inner writer? Call me at 925.334.2632 and let’s talk about how I can be of service.