Does your writing inspire passion? If not, here’s how!
If your business writing had a personality, would it be a weak-kneed individual? Is it trying too hard to amuse, hopeful of a welcome reception from readers but in reality slightly trying their patience?
Or is it a bold leader, strong and convincing; inspiring your reader to follow you in the direction you choose?
Learn what to avoid in your written communication if you want to be the circus strongman, rather than the clown. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can create more persuasive copy that converts into excellent business relationships or even sales.
1. Lose the Weak Words
Your writing should be aiming to be strong and persuasive, using powerful words and phrases, often with an appeal to the readers’ emotions. Some words are used too frequently and have become meaningless – adding to the word count but not pulling their weight. Here’s a secret insight: these are the words that make a professional copywriter scream silently inside. In this sense, they do evoke passion – but not the one you’re striving for! Instead you want to make the reader excited. Get them reaching for their money or itching to press the ‘contact me’ button. Don’t lull them into a comfortable inertia. Some examples weak-kneed, useless words to lose from your copy are:
Nice – a word that evokes no emotion, appeals to none of the senses and carries no passion. If you’re certain you mean it, inject a word that’s on steroids or rephrase and beef up your argument. Often, the addition of some visual description will help.
Example: Jennifer wore a nice dress.
Once again, with passion: Jennifer wore a stunningly beautiful, layered chiffon dress in jewel colours.
Very or really – again these are weak words, used for emphasis, which are so ubiquitous that they’ve lost their meaning. They could be left our altogether or replaced by a superlative or a word such as ‘supremely’ or ‘uniquely’.
Example: The public relations agency is very creative.
Once more, with passion: The public relations agency is exceptionally creative.
Get or got – in the sense of buy, obtain, discover. Another word that is so plentiful in speech and writing that we hardly notice it. Dig out your Thesaurus and find an alternative that’s more descriptive.
Example: The tutor has got an excellent programme of writing lessons for her students.
Once more, with passion: The tutor has diligently prepared an excellent programme of writing lessons for her students.
There are so many weak words: I’m sure you can think of a multitude to add to this list.
2. Boot Out the Buzzwords
Now that you’ve deleted all the weak words and replaced them with strong ones, you’re sorted, right? Wrong! There’s another group of frequently used words just waiting to trip you up.
Business Week identifies 15 Buzzwords You’ll Need to Know in 2015, including mompreneur, newsjacking and H2H – I’m all in favour of that last, after all this article is about passion.
However much you’re tempted to make your copy seem more down with the kids by including one or more of these contemporary buzzwords, it can be a mistake. The most valuable copy is ‘evergreen’. By evergreen, I mean that it is informative and useful and importantly it doesn’t date. By including today’s terms (and increasingly, symbols and emojis), there’s a risk your writing will seem out of date even a year or so later.
Arm yourself with word knowledge! That clever phrase you had in mind might just be one of the most used and therefore useless phrases around at the moment. Read up on buzzwords, including articles such as LinkedIn’s Top Ten Global Buzzwords of 2014, to ensure you avoid these and similar pitfalls.
3. Ditch the Unsupported Statistics
Numbers can be enormously persuasive, whether in speech or writing. The secret is to deploy them carefully. The old joke says 47% of statistics are made up: they might as well be, if you don’t back them up by quoting reliable sources. Telling your reader that a powerful academic organisation has dedicated two years to researching and quoting their findings is meaningful and persuasive. Contrast this with “96% of our readers agree”, which offers no clues to the quality of the research, and you cast doubt, not just on your facts, but on your whole organisation. How to tarnish your business without even trying!
An example of a powerful statistic might be, “Marketers who have prioritised blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI. (HubSpot State of Inbound, 2014).” The writer has described where this fact comes from, ensured it’s a reliable source and given the date to demonstrate currency. This is a statistic that is convincing and inspires confidence in the reader.
4. Love your writing
Negatives are, on the whole, weak. By contrast, positives are powerful. Seek to write from a positive standpoint in order to communicate your passion for your subject. Often the right words will spring to mind immediately but if not, be prepared to craft and re-draft until you’re sure you have achieved what you were aiming for. Spend some time on it; then take a break. It could be that the ideal phrase will have leapt to the front of your mind while you were away – and voila! The work is complete.
These are just a few quick tips to help you boost your copy and ban reader boredom. If you struggle with weak words and could to with a surge of enthusiasm and creativity, get in touch with me. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org: I will relish the challenge.
I very much enjoyed working with Sue Kelso Ryan while she was writing copy for a new website and I’m delighted with the end result! … I would highly recommend Sue and indeed, I hope to work with her on further projects in the future.Dr Mike Crisp – Jan 2016