Writing isn’t just putting down words on paper. It is one of the most underestimated forms of persuasive communication. Yet the art of writing for persuasion seems to be an uncovered good. We don’t know how to write down clear, simple and persuasive sentences because High School and College haven’t taught us so.
Junior Marketers, it’s time to get rid of your academic writing style.
Writing for school
I bet you still remember how to write an essay for an instant A+: meet the word count, use long sentences and use complex words. And make sure you’re familiar with the topic you’re writing about.
Back in the college days, we were told to follow these guidelines. It’s as if writing a lot of complex words and sentences demonstrated your proficiency in your language and your knowledge about the topic. Personally, I even recall an ‘Avoid using simple language’ remark as feedback for one of my written essays.
So what did these guidelines do to you? For me, they made me write for quantity instead of quality. I wrote complex, long-dreaded assays just to meet the word count and to sound smart. When looking back at my student time, I recall a lot of moments where I wrote 1000 words of nonsense in 30 minutes just to meet the essay’s word count. My editing process consisted of adding some ‘Hence’, ‘Therefore’ and unnecessary details to my sentences. Et voilà, I’ve met the word count. I’m done.
While this way of writing worked for me during my time as a student, I soon got to realize the following: In the Marketing world, this writing style is a no-go.
I could remember one time during my first internship, when I was emailing an entire paragraph to a stakeholder just to ask one simple question. My paragraph seemed exceptional, with perfect grammar, long sentences, difficult words.
But would someone with basic understanding of the language be bothered to read it? Someone once told to me “You write beautiful sentences, but no one is going to understand them.”
That’s what struck me. It’s great that I can write like an academic or like a poet, but this has no added value when your writing isn’t clear for the audience you’re targeting to.
Writing in the Marketing World
You see, as Marketers we want to convey a message to our potential customers. But consumers don’t care about your message when it is long-dreaded, unclear and vague. So please recall the writing guidelines for you learned when you were in High School and College. Then, erase them.
Three advices always return when it comes to writing for consumers: Clarity, Brevity and Simplicity.
- Clarity: You need to know what you’re saying. And if you can’t bring your idea back to one sentence, you don’t know what you are saying.
- Brevity: Reread your sentences after drafting them. Look at what you can cut out. In 9 out of 10 cases, adverbs, adjectives and words like ‘just, ‘simply’, ‘really’, ‘very’ have no added value.
- Simplicity: I love the KISS-rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don’t look for complex words or sentence structures, just write like how you would talk to other people.
So you could either impress yourself, by, for instance, mentioning concepts in complex language by writing long sentences, full of adjectives and adverbs, that never seem to stop.
Or you could keep it simple and get straight to the point.
Guess which tactic your consumers prefer.