Any business with an online presence knows the power of a well-crafted message. A single social media update or blog article can garner hundreds of thousands of viewers. More readers means more potential revenue for the company responsible for the post.
Your words can make you sound trustworthy, relaxed, friendly, and genuine. Conversely, they can make you seem dishonest, stiff, distant, and untruthful. When you're writing for a business, you have to infuse your content with personality. Since your words personify your brand, they have to be conversational. Keep the following things in mind to ensure that your posts sound human and natural.
Using Contractions is Okay
Verbal language tends to be informal—people use contractions (we're instead of we are), abbreviate words (tech instead of technology), and rely on acronyms (P.M. instead of in the afternoon). These are perfectly acceptable in blog posts as well, even if you write for a buttoned-up industry.
People think they need to be formal in business writing. When you're writing to the founder of a company or drafting an annual report, that's fine. However, you don't need to be so formal in your blog. "Good" writing isn't about sticking to grammar rules. Instead, it is about sincerity. You need to convey the humanity of your message, which is crucial when you're sharing bad news or apologizing.
Use Simple, Direct Sentences
Business blogs are primarily for building authority. However, some people equate expertise with using the fanciest words and the most "impressive" jargon from their niche. If you do this, though, you create the opposite effect. When you swap 'utilize' for 'use' and 'synergize' for 'align,' you make your message unclear.
Today, when people see convoluted speech, they assume you're hiding something. It's because unscrupulous public figures are known for using words as a smokescreen for their actions. Rather than demonstrating your authority, using jargon makes you appear dishonest.
As much as possible, use short and simple words. No one will complain of understanding what you mean, but you'll undoubtedly hear from your audience if they find your words too complicated.
Explain Unfamiliar Things
On the other end of the spectrum are people who use simplified language without considering whether their readers are newcomers or industry veterans. Although you get your message across quickly when you use 'CTA' throughout your article, you could alienate readers who don't know what that acronym means. They will think you're not writing for them, whether by design or not, and move to another source.
If you must use industry terms, explain or spell them out when you use them for the first time in the article. For example, you could say, "Well-written articles increase your chances of landing on the front page of search engine results pages," instead of shortening to SERPs.
Don't assume readers already know what terms mean if you talked about them in previous posts. They might not have read your other articles and have landed on your website for the first time.
Check and Re-Check Your Words
People judge everything about your writing, not just the content. They also look at your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. If you misspell a single word, you could throw someone off. What's more, if the issue is just incorrectly spelled words, you could get a warning from your grammar tool. However, these software are not as skilled at detecting incorrect use just yet.
By the time you realize that you made a mistake, it might be too late—the post might have gone to print, and the damage would be irreparable. Proofreading won't take too much time—a few minutes if you already write well—but it is crucial in building brand equity. Make time for proofreading by scheduling it into your timeline. You could also try reading the post aloud or having a colleague run through your articles. These methods help you catch awkward turns of phrase or paragraphs you left unedited.
Always Have a Style Guide
A related problem is having inconsistent style in your articles. When your style changes from one post to another—when you use "email" in one article and "e-mail" in the next—it hurts your credibility. Even if you aren't misspelling anything, changing your style from one story to another shows a lack of commitment. At the very least, it means you're unaware that you should adhere to a single format. Consistency gives your articles polish and prevents reader confusion.
When you use a style guide, you ensure that your posts follow a certain standard. There are different "standards" for good formatting—one publication might prefer to write "ebook," while another might say "e-book." It does not matter whether you use APA, MLA, Chicago, or others—what does count is you following one style throughout. A style guide might also talk about capitalization, using abbreviations, formatting numbers in dates, times, currencies, and percentages, headline capitalization, and much more.
You can adopt one of the style guides of well-known organizations or use these as a starting point for your in-0house guide.
Always Create for Your Audience
Make your content audience-centric. For example, saying "I'm granting your request" won't get your readers excited. What will make them eager to learn more is reading "You asked for it, we delivered," or something similar. Shift the energy to your audience. Whether you're writing for your blog, updating your social media, or writing an email, you need to make it about them. Use words like "you" or "you're" instead of "I" and "we."
If you're used to writing from the first person, you would have to reframe your language. However, the payoffs will be worth it—your readers will want to know more and will likely read more.
Sounding knowledgeable in your posts help you demonstrate authoritativeness. However, sounding human is even more critical. When your audience cannot relate to your posts, they won't bother reading it even if it showcases your expertise in the field. The bottom line is that your brand needs to connect with your audience—whether through your products and services or your messaging.
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