How to simplify your message when writing for your business

Keep it Simple

In the last couple of articles we’ve concentrated on why storytelling is good for your business.

But it’s no good if you waffle so much that your customers lose the plot.

thinking businessman

Now, ok, I’ll admit I have a tendency to waffle occasionally.

But that’s because I tend to write as I talk, and I’m a terrible waffler (that’s SO a thing, I could be the waffliest waffler in the north).

However, writing for yourself is notoriously difficult, and I am no exception, but when I write for clients I know to rein in the waffle and write concisely and simply.

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Take a good look at your writing.

Simplifying your writing isn’t dumbing down, it’s allowing the largest number of people possible to read your words.

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Keep it simple

So how do you tell a business story, and still keep things simple?

Get rid of all those fancy words

Despite what you may think, fancy words do not a storyteller make. Fancy words can alienate your customers.

If your customers have to think about what a word means, they won’t hang around.

● ● ●

They don’t want to feel stupid, and you don’t want them to feel stupid. Stick to the non-flowery, easily understood language that will convey your message, without sounding like you’ve swallowed a dictionary.

This:

Shelby was absolutely ravenous, but the options at the buffet were simply horrific, she chose a monstrosity of a quiche and consumed it half-heartedly.

can become this:

Shelby was hungry but didn’t like the buffet, so she reluctantly chose the flan.

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Get rid of the jargon

This leads on from the last point.

Unless you’re writing for your peers who really need to have jargon scattered all over the place, it’s best to just get rid of it.

● ● ●

Your customers don’t want to wade through paragraph after paragraph of ‘special’ words. There’s a reason the Oxford Dictionary gives the word ‘jargon’ as ‘a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid.’

Getting rid of jargon can be a great way to simplify your writing.

This:

Dave took out his Meisterstück Le Petit Prince Solitaire Doué LeGrand and taking his 75% post-consumer Fourdrinier-produced block proceeded to draft a relinquishment of professional vocation.

can become this:

Dave wrote his resignation letter.

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Stick to the point

Get rid of the waffle. When you’re passionate about your business or your product it’s easy to go on and on and on …

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As heartbreaking as it is, your clients probably don’t want to know about every tiny detail. Even when you’re using storytelling as a means of communication.

This:

Jemima first had the idea for the business while cooking a meal for her family. She’d just been to the supermarket and they didn’t have any nice jam, so she went to the upmarket delicatessen and found that theirs was way too expensive and had loads of fancy ingredients, some of which she’d never heard of. Then, when she was cooking she realised that she had way too many pieces of papaya and mango (her husband didn’t like mango at the time). Rather than try to figure out whether to bin them or not (she really doesn’t like waste), Jemima realised that with the left-over unrefined sugar in the pantry, she could make her own jam – she remembered her grandmother giving her a recipe for exotic fruit spread when she was a teenager. That was when the idea for Jemima’s Jolly Jam came about.

can become this:

The idea for Jemima’s Jolly Jam came about when Jemima realised she could make simple, delicious homemade jam using her grandmother’s recipe.

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Get rid of all those long, meandering, never-ending sentences

When you’re writing for your business, the full-stop is your friend.

Don’t have one long sentence when it can be broken down into a number of concise, easy to read sentences.

● ● ●

I’ve had to contend with sentences that James Joyce would be proud of. I think my current high point was a sentence of around 360 words. Think of your clients. Don’t do it.

This:

When Philip was sitting at his computer and it wouldn’t start (it had broken), he was wondering whether or not to hit it with a hammer or turn it off and on again, he did that anyway and it didn’t work, so he decided to go for a coffee, as coffee solves all problems. He went to the coffee machine, that was broken too, oh my goodness what a day this had become, so he chose the next best thing – doughnuts. He then had to decide whether to go for the ring doughnut, the jam doughnut or one of the fancy doughnuts on offer that had sumptuous fillings and sprinkles of edible glitter on top. When he found that our establishment also serves great coffee he knew that he had found his tribe. Thanks to his computer breaking he was about to find his happy place, a place that he would come to time and time again, and not just when his computer decided to break down. He was also happy when he realised that Daphne’s Doughnuts welcomes freelancers with a two for one coffee offer, free WiFi and a plug for your laptop.

can become this:

When Philip’s computer broke, his quest for coffee led him to Daphne’s Doughnuts. He had trouble deciding from our vast doughnut menu. But he knew he had found his tribe when he saw that we serve great coffee. He was about to find his happy place. Daphne’s Doughnuts welcomes freelancers with a two for one coffee offer, free WiFi and a plug for your laptop.

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Keep it pretty (vacant)

Simplifying your message doesn’t need to be just simplifying your writing.

Make sure your page, whether it’s a web page or a printed one, isn’t fussy.

● Use plenty of white space

● Use a font that’s easy to read

● Stick to only a few colours

● Use subheadings

● Use a decent line space – don’t have cluttered blocks of text.

You’ll notice that this blog has broken a few of the rules mentioned here ... kind of proves the point, don’t you think?

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Keep it relevant

The easiest way to simplify your writing is to keep it relevant and to keep it easy to read. If I doubt, leave it out.

Read everything out loud. If you stumble, so will your readers.

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If you don’t feel confident, and want some help simplifying your writing, you can contact me directly to chat about how we can help your business.

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