Are You Making This Mistake With Your Writing?


Do you enjoy reading mission statements?

It’s great if it’s a sentence that describes what you do and why you do it.

The one you’re about to read doesn’t.

“To create a shopping experience that pleases our customers; a workplace that creates opportunities and a great working environment for our associates; and a business that achieves financial success.”

That’s about as exciting as taking a bath in lukewarm water.

Do you know whose mission statement that is? Can you tell what type of business it is? It could be anything, right?

The company is Albertson’s. They run grocery stores in the Western United States.

You have to commend them for wanting to make people happy and stay in business.

But is that enough to get people excited?

I doubt it.

What if you could write even the most mundane material with flair?

You can. Here are four tips to help you do it.

Keep your writing simple and you'll always be clear. Click To Tweet

Photo Credit: Seniju Flickr via Compfight cc

Don’t Write to Impress; Write to Express

It’s tempting to use big, important-sounding words to look smart. However, if your reader has to look up more than two words in a dictionary, she’ll read something else.

Here’s a horrible handful of pompous prose (translations in parentheses):

  • “I am cognizant of that reality.” (I know.)
  • “I cannot comprehend your propensity for gaseous emission.” (Why do you burp so much?)
  • “The compost made immediate contact with the oscillator.” (We have a problem.)

Doctors do this. Why else do they write prescriptions in Latin? If we can’t understand what they’re saying, they must be smarter.

This can backfire. You can seem arrogant, snotty, and condescending. Who wants to listen to someone who makes her feel stupid?

Your job is to send a message. Don’t use big words when smaller ones will do. Keep your writing simple and you’ll always be clear.

Be clear about what you want. Then people can understand and act. Click To Tweet

Jargon Confuses

When your listener or reader can’t understand the words you use, she’ll have to:

  • Consult a dictionary
  • Ask someone else if she knows what you meant
  • Fill in the blank with her best guesses

Don’t assume everyone knows your metrics, your corporate-speak, or your goals. When you use jargon, explain it – or don’t use it.

Jargon is like garlic. If you use too much, you’ll ruin everything. Use everyday language so there’s no question what you mean.

It’s Hard to Motivate People Who are Confused

Have you ever heard people talking to each other in another language?

Maybe you wonder if they’re talking about you.

But how can you know?

You don’t. So you fill in the blanks with your own ideas based on the context clues you pick up.

Imagine this happening with your audience. Your call to action would mean something different to everyone.

Be clear about what you want. Then people can understand and act.

Sell benefits, and even the most mundane material will be fun to read. Click To Tweet

Sell Benefits, Not Features

You’re always selling.

You might be giving instructions, promoting a cause, or sharing your opinion. In any case, you’re selling something.

Will your reader buy?

Know exactly what you want to accomplish with your writing.

  • To give instructions
  • To describe a process
  • To explain how something works

No matter what you’re writing about, sell the benefits.

  • What’s the benefit of reading the instructions?
  • Why should I agree with your opinion?
  • What’s so important about the process?

If you just stick to the facts, your writing will be boring. Even meeting minutes can be written so well your secretary can’t wait to type them.

Sell benefits, and even the most mundane material will be fun to read.

Now Do This

When you have something boring to write, follow these steps to jazz it up.

  1. Decide what you want your reader to accomplish.
  2. Use word pictures to help her see what you see. Keep it simple enough for a beginner to understand.
  3. Emphasize the benefit of following the process, using the product, or understanding the facts.

Do this and you’ll write clearly, persuasively, and with purpose.

Your readers will thank you. They’ll understand you. And they’ll do what you ask.

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