Why Words Can Kill Your Business (And What To Do About It)

Words on a cafe wall

 

Your business thrives on words.

Ok, you might think I would say that, being an editor and all, but stop for a minute.

How do you get your message across to your clients and customers?

Fabulous, eye-catching images and words. Lots and lots of words.

Your words define you and your business.

Business words

Your brand identity is defined by the words you choose.

Your company culture is defined by the words you use.

Your customer focus is defined by the words you use too.

 

Words can entice, excite and entertain. Or they can confuse, alienate and drive away business.

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Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: bad writing can kill your business.

For example, how are your emails being received?

Email communication

The problem:

You don’t get to the point.

The point gets lost in jargon.

The point gets lost in meaningless drivel.

The emails are so long getting to the point that the reader loses the will to live.

The solution:

Don’t worry about getting straight to the point. Your recipient probably has a million and one things to do other than read your mailing. Lower the chances of them hitting the delete button by telling what you need to tell in a straightforward, professional manner.

Ditch the jargon, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If your recipient is unsure what you mean they’ll delete. Use plain language. No one ever complained about easy to understand emails.

Stop the waffle. Seriously. Just stop it.

Avoid the tl;dr culture. If you have a special offer, let your recipients know sooner rather than later. If you have something to tell them that will benefit them, tell them at the beginning. If your emails are so long they aren’t going to be read, split them up.

contact us emails

Top tip: If you find that your business emails are taking up too much time, they’re being binned before they’re read and are not giving a return on your investment – simplify the process by spending time creating templates that you can reuse. A few hours of template writing will free up your time later on and will make things so much easier for you … just remember not to leave in dummy text!

But it’s the same for all your business writing.

Your website is your virtual shop window. It’s also a way to talk to your customers and make them feel valued. Common business writing mistakes that will lose you customers and cost you money are:

Spelling mistakes

Incorrect information

Broken links and bad navigation on your website

Complicated language, jargon and inconsistencies

Information overload

As well as all the points I noted above.

Brochures, flyers and advertising material, along with your website and business communication, need to be straightforward and to the point, without forgetting that your customer is your main focus.

Here’s how you fix it, and make your business words work for you:

  writing for business

  • Take your time and really read what you’ve written. Seek out spelling mistakes and fix them, and if you’re not good with words, hire someone who is. Spelling mistakes and sloppy writing will lose you business. Seriously.
  • Take time to write your business information. Research, draft, write, read, rewrite, read, rewrite again if you need to. Don’t just write something and stick it out there (unless you’re writing very quick, to the point, blog posts that don’t pretend to be anything else).
  • Focus on your customer, not yourself. Make things as easy as possible for them. Use words they will enjoy reading, and words that are not overly complicated. Using plain English is NOT dumbing down, it’s making your writing as easy as possible, for as many people as possible, to understand.
  • Don’t tell your customers too many things all at once. Let them digest each nugget of information before they move on. And give them the choice to know more – don’t force it down their throats. Use separate pages for each area of your business.

There’s a reason that copywriters and editors exist. You may be a whizz at your business, an engaging entrepreneur with fabulous ideas, or a nuts and bolts trader of essentials, but you may be rubbish at writing. Hey, not everyone is good with words. That’s why we train to be good editors and writers. I’d make a rubbish entrepreneur.

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While your business thrives on words, try not to make mistakes like these:

The online wine shop I happened upon in my search for a fizzy German wine made from strawberries (a favourite of mine back in the 1990s when Safeway stocked it for £1.99 a bottle!), where well-known varieties of wine were spelt incorrectly. I left without purchasing. I never did find that wine.

The local restaurant who advertised in our post office, on the little TV screen that blinks at you as you’re waiting to send off your parcels, and who couldn’t spell the name of the street they were situated on. Probably wouldn’t affect trade that much, unless someone who wasn’t local was trying to find the establishment, but it’s just sloppy.

The well-known department store that accidentally missed out a digit and sold an expensive necklace for only $47. Huge mistake, which was honoured before anyone twigged what had gone wrong.

The British bank that right now has a glaring typo on their home page. I won’t put up a link as hopefully it will have been rectified by the time this post is made live. Let’s just say there’s a Northern Santa who doesn’t like surprises, but a dictionary should be on his gift list. People, respect your business and we might respect yours.

So, if you want to make the most of your business, keep potential customers engaged and have them return for more here’s what to do:

Seek out, locate and destroy spelling errors.

Keep things simple and avoid jargon unless it’s needed and expected.

Use plain English wherever possible.

Respect your clients by investing in your businesses writing.

Write for your clients, not for yourself.

Take time over your content.

And if you need professional help find a copywriter to write your content, an editor to help you polish your content and a proofreader to give it that final check.

It’s not as expensive as you may think, and good content is key to a successful business.

Contact me if you think I can help your business to thrive.

5 Steps To Effective Communication

coffee, notebook, notepad, writing

Let’s get things straight.

Writing is a form of communication.

Your English may be perfect, but if you can’t communicate well, your audience is going to give up pretty quickly

So here are a few quick tips for effective communication:

1. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Before you write anything make sure you’ve made notes. Get everything down in note form and it will focus your mind to the task in hand. This way you won’t miss anything and it will all become clearer to you before you put pen to paper. Clear objectives make for clearer prose.

happy woman

Make it clear, keep them happy

2. Know who your audience is. There’s no point in writing the same thing for a bunch of academics and a load of high school students. Keep the language audience appropriate. If it’s too academic for the reader it will put them off, and you’ll come across as a snob. If it’s too basic, you’ll come across as condescending. Keep your writing at the correct level, and if you don’t know what that is ask around or go look at texts aimed at the same audience.

scared child

don’t make her read your company newsletter

3. Get rid of the jargon. There’s no point in using jargon unless you’re writing for industry professionals, and even then you should try to ditch the jargon. By using jargon you are, right from the beginning, alienating those who aren’t sure what the jargon means.

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ditch the jargon

4. Keep things simple. Plain English is brilliant. No one wants to read something that they can’t understand, so get rid of the arsey language and make your writing something that everyone wants to read. If you mean a ‘bin man’, say a bin man and not a household refuse technician. If you mean ‘wages’ say that and not ‘institutional renumeration packages’. It’s easy to keep things simple if you think about what you’re writing.

tightrope man

reading shouldn’t take that much concentration

5. Break it down. If you have a load of stuff to get across your audience, a great way to communicate effectively is to break it down into digestable pieces. There’s no shame in using lists and bullet points. It’s preferable to a whole heap of long paragraphs that become convoluted and lose their way. Break it down for your audience and they’ll thank you for it.

list

make a list

So, there you go. Five steps to great, effective, simple communication.

If you have any of your own, pop them in the comments.

This blog sponsored by ‘We’re getting puppies and I’m too busy to write a big blog post’.

In association with ‘Orignally written on an ipad, which suddenly deleted the post for no good reason’.

corgi pups cartoon

Do you need to like your editor or proofreader?

handshake

 

You’ve finished your book, completed your marketing material or are looking for some help with your PhD thesis. Now you’ve got to find an editor / proofreader / wordy wordsmith.

How to find an editor or proofreader

It’s a tough decision. First you have to find them. You can find an editor (let’s just call them editors so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time) in a variety of ways. You can find them through:

 word of mouth

 places like writers’ groups

social media

or you can actually go straight to society directories (such as the SfEP directory).

I’m sure there are other ways to find an editor. If you use a different way be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Finding an editor can be equally tough if you are not sure exactly what you want. Let’s face it, unless you’re an expert at something, you rarely know exactly what you want and will rely on expert guidance. Do you really know if you need an edit or a proofread? (Hint: unless you have your material completely finished and ready to go, it won’t be a proofread you’re after).

 

thinking businessman

click here to find out whether you need an editor or proofreader

 

How do you choose which editor to work with?

So, let’s imagine you’ve trawled through the available resources and have decided that there are one or two (or more) editors who fit your profile – they are qualified, knowledgeable in your area and fit your budget. (Hint: cheapest is rarely best).

How on earth do you choose which one to work with?

Do you choose the most qualified?

The cheapest?

The one nearest to where you live?

See? It’s a tough decision. One editor may offer incentives (price plans, bundles and packages, discounts), another may just offer one or two services, whereas another may be so highly qualified you think you’ll never be able to afford them or fit into their schedule. If you are a business, budget may be less of a problem but timescale may be – do you choose the one who can deal with you straight away or wait until the one you really think you could work with has an opening in their schedule?

Here’s a thought – how about also finding one you enjoy working with?

woman with computer

Do your homework and talk to editors

When it comes down to it, once you have your shortlist you could procrastinate until it’s too late to book any of your preferred choices. Remember, good editors usually get booked up pretty quickly and may only be able to fit you in at short notice if they have a project timeline slide.

You will have chosen your shortlist to criteria of some sort, but now is the time to see if you can actually work with them.

How many people actually do their homework when choosing who to work with? You could find that someone who fits your profile academically is a nightmare to work with. Come on, we’ve all had that brilliant colleague who has the personality of a robot, or the colleague who seems mediocre on paper but is a delight to work with.

is your colleague a robot

While qualifications are important, you also need to be able to feel comfortable with your editor.

This is why it is so important to start a dialogue with the editors you choose.

Talk to them.

Ok, email them. Whatever, but do talk to them.

Right at the outset, when you send that first enquiry, you need to talk about what you think you need, ask for their advice and see where you fit into their schedule.

How do you feel when you talk to them?  Gut instinct can work here, but do you feel comfortable with the conversation.

How will they work on your writing? Do your ideas and theirs mix well?

Do they seem to know what they’re talking about? They should, but do they communicate it well too?

Are they too technical? Would they mind explaining things or do you think they are used to working with more technical clients.

 

This may be a teensy bit controversial … but …

If you don’t feel comfortable with the level of communication you probably won’t feel comfortable with the editing process.

comfortable at home

So do you have to like your editor or proofreader?

You don’t have to LIKE your editor, but you do need to be COMFORTABLE working with them.

Some people prefer a more formal editor/client relationship.

Some people like a more informal set-up.

Now, don’t get me wrong, most professionals can work either way, becoming more formal when the occasion demands, or more conversational when it’s preferred. Hell, even I can scrub up and do the formal thing when needed.

Faberge: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars exhibit

(c) etee, Flikr

But the working relationship, no matter what that might be, needs to be something you can live with. Sometimes hiring an editor is a one-off, but for many writers or businesses it becomes an ongoing relationship that can last a long time. Talking to your editor shouldn’t be a thing of dread, you should look forward to working with them and allowing them to help you hone your writing.

Will you both enjoy working together?

Here are three ways you can figure out if you’ll get on:

  1. Look at their websites.

Some editors have swanky websites, some don’t, but you should be able to get a bit of personality and information from their sites. It’s not the be-all and end-all of a working relationship, but it’s common sense to check them out.

You may gauge something of their working agendas, their specialities and affiliations. If someone highlights their academic work, they may not readily take on your work of high fiction.

You may also get a shock and find out your editor has green hair, and you have to ask yourself if you could work with such a non-conformist.

Sara Donaldson | copywriter | copyeditor | proofreader

Honestly, most of the time I forget it’s green

  1. Talk to your editorial choices.

Before making a firm decision ask them questions about how they’ll work with you, what level of editing they think you need, where you can fit into their schedule and timescale. You should, through conversation, be able to figure out whether you’ll be able to work together.

  1. Have a look at their work

Does their work seem to tie in with yours, or if not are they interested in your type of writing? Going by someone’s past work isn’t always an indicator of their future work. There may be good reasons that there’s little information on their website about the type of work they have done in the past. For example I have a portfolio, but it by no means shows all my past work – working with individuals and companies rather than traditional publishers can mean work won’t appear in a portfolio because of confidentiality issues.

confidential and confidentiality

If you can’t find any examples of their work online, bring it into the conversation. Ask if they’ve worked on your type of material, and if they haven’t ask if they are qualified to work on it. You may find that your editor hasn’t made it public knowledge, but they are dying to work on your type of project. And don’t be afraid to ask about qualifications, your editor won’t be offended.

So, do you need to like them?

In short, go with whatever feels the most comfortable.

You don’t need to LIKE your editor, but you need to take into account:

Are they qualified to do the job?

Do they work in a way that you’re comfortable with?

Can you talk to them properly?

Can you afford them?

Are your timeframes compatible?

If you can actually like your editor too it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable and you’ll look forward to working together.

 

*****

If you think you could work with this green-haired editorial consultant, why not take a peek at my SfEP directory entry? Contact me and we can talk through your project.