goodIt’s easy to believe that good writing has gone the way of the vinyl record. Whether it’s content mills churning out filler for the undiscerning or video’s plans for world domination, there’s plenty of gloom surrounding the written word.

In the business world, though, good copywriting still counts. It’s not just Leeds Building Society that thinks so. In Freshword’s survey of business leaders, almost all the respondents believed that ‘poor writing poses serious risks to their reputation, and affects [their] financial and legal risk’.

The message is clear: bad writing costs businesses time and money. It also damages the writers, affecting the way they’re perceived by their bosses, customers, colleagues and everyone else who has to wade through their dreck. Banging out a video on your iPhone isn’t going to fix that.

So what is good writing?

Let’s be clear. Good business copywriting is not about meeting an arbitrary ideal of grammatical correctness. While grammar is important, some so-called ‘rules’ are pointless and lead to clunky writing.

Good business copywriting is about communicating effectively. That requires three things: thought, clarity and engagement.

1. Thought

Much of the vague and waffly writing that circulates in business results from the author not knowing which points are worth making.

To write well, you have to:

  • understand your subject
  • think about what your audience wants to know
  • decide the order in which to say it, and
  • know what to leave out.

It’s tempting to skip the thinking stage because thinking looks like slacking off. Don’t give in. Thinking is the most important part of the copywriting process. Look at it as the foundation on which your writing is built.

2. Clarity

Clarity is essential for credibility but a cogent argument will only get you part way. True clarity requires the right words, deployed in the right way.

There are a few tricks that can help, such as:

  • avoiding jargon
  • using the active voice, and
  • stripping out words that don’t affect your meaning.

Ultimately, though, clarity comes from rewriting and perseverance. Question everything you’ve written and keep honing your prose until it says exactly what you want it to.

3. Engagement

Good business copywriting creates a bond with your readers. It draws them in and makes them want to read to the end. So how do you do this? Thinking about what your audience wants is part of the answer, as is expressing yourself clearly. Real engagement, though, requires your writing to create the right emotions in your readers.

If you want to inspire trust, for example, try an authoritative tone. Removing qualifiers that weaken your arguments, such as ‘could’, ‘can’, ‘might’ and ‘often’, will take you in the right direction. Claim too much authority, though, and your readers will see you as patronising, arrogant or simplistic. The trick is to find the right balance, considering at every step how your readers will perceive what you say and the way you’ve expressed it.

The importance of practice

The final thing you need for good copywriting is not a characteristic of the writing itself but of your approach to it: you need to practice. Like any art or craft, your writing will improve if you work at it. If you want a head start, get some training. And if you really don’t have the time to hone your own skills, hire someone who already has them.

Find out more

Talk to us to find out how we can harness the power of good writing for your business.