By Jenny Stallard
Writing for Business is a, well, tricky business. The balance of the formal and informal, the words we choose being a key part of whether a client will perhaps want to meet us, work with us or indeed pay us.
In the 8-week course that I teach for City, University of London, we cover a lot of the practicalities of Writing for Business, from blogs and bios to emails and CVs. However, there is always a lot of discussion about the emotional side of things: how we might develop a tone of voice unique to us and our business, the formality vs informality of email styles and how to address different clients or potential clients.
These are also all things I come across in my daily life as a self-employed coach and writer! And it means that, during the course, I always have moments of clarity about my own Writing for Business. Tutoring on Writing for Business (WFB) has actually taught me a lot about the methods and choices we make when it comes to our language in business.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1: Our style and tone of voice is always a work in progress. Particularly if we are writing for our own business. I have found that my style has evolved more since teaching the course, too, as I hear the lessons each time and apply them to my own Writing for Business! We must, of course, adhere to style guides where appropriate, but being ‘brave’ enough to build our own style is something we should and can work on constantly. And, it’s OK if it changes over the course of time, too.
2: The types of writing for business are always expanding. At the beginning of each 8-week course, we brainstorm what forms writing for business can come in. There is always something new from someone to add to the list. For example, we discuss whether podcasts are WFB (I would argue that the show notes are), or TikTok and Instagram (well, captions are writing, aren’t they?).
3: If in doubt, probably leave it out! This is particularly true for the emoji, which comes up for discussion in the module I teach on emails and etiquette. An emoji in an email is a total no-no for some, while, in the media industry and particular newsletters, I often see emojis in the subject line and indeed the body of an email. As with everything, if you’re considering using an emoji, think whether it adds anything, and always go back to whether the client/reader would be on board with it.
4: Sometimes the smallest words are the best. One of the parts of the course I love teaching is about calls to action – those small sets of one to three words where a site, article or post gets us to click to either sign up, buy, or find out more. Often, we can see writing for business being about the long form writing, from reports and brochures to presentations and articles. And of course, it is! But there is a real skill in shortening words down, and, in particular, self-editing. Writing a call to action, an 8-word headline or just 100-word bio is often the most satisfying as we work our magic to make the fewest words say the most.
5: The biggest challenge isn’t the words, it’s the confidence to write – and publish – them. From a blog post to an email asking for ‘that’ meeting about a promotion/pay rise, to a social media post or a profile and bio. Selling – whether it’s a product or ourselves – using words is hard. Often what holds us back is ‘but what if nobody reads it?!’. Having the courage to publish, press send, or upload our writing for business is perhaps the biggest challenge of all. I hope that my writing this piece, and putting it ‘out there’ inspires readers and course members to do the same.
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