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    How to write persuasively

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    With the advent of email and blogs, the power of good, clear, persuasive (yes, even humorous) writing has never been more evident. Bury the corporate double-speak. Crisp penmanship can slice through obstacles to commercial success, writes Valerie Khoo.
     
    Have we lost our ability to communicate? Did the gene that enables good writing get squashed out of our DNA somewhere along the line? Sometimes, it seems that we are so busy trying to innovate, systemise and expand our businesses, we can forget fundamental tools that can contribute to success.
     
    By this, I mean the power of written communication. In a world where enterprises are increasingly doing business online and shopfronts are diminishing, we sometimes rely on our websites to sell our services and replace face-to-face meetings with emails.
     
    Writing – powerful, effective writing – can persuade, inspire and sell. But the reality is that we don’t pay as much attention to our written communication as we should. “Sent from my Blackberry” is code for “Excuse my abrupt answer and typos, and be grateful I’m answering you at all because I’m so busy.”
     
    And in a web 2.0 world, many entrepreneurs are embracing the idea of communicating with customers informally through blogs, wikis and forums. Creating informal conversations with customers is great, but publishing sloppy blogs rife with spelling mistakes is not. Some pundits may argue that trivial issues such as spelling and language shouldn’t matter in the great scheme of things. But isn’t this just a reflection of the entrepreneur? Someone with little attention to detail and an inability to communicate well?
     
    It’s not safe to assume that the rules have relaxed enough that you can get away with less-than-perfect written communication. I was speaking to a senior executive who told me he binned any proposal with a typo or spelling mistake. He said: “I’m assessing million-dollar deals. If people can’t be bothered to read their own documents carefully before sending them to me, how can I trust them with my business?”
     
    Then there are those who do use spell check but have a penchant for the corporate language of bullshit bingo, or use inflated sentences that complicate simple ideas. “We must action a needs assessment as to the downturn in interest for the course”. How about: “We should find out why no one is doing the course.”
     
    You don’t win any medals for using big words or trying to sound more intellectual. Instead, you just lose customers or alienate readers who end up scratching their heads as they attempt to figure out what you’re trying to say.
     
    A couple of years ago we were all explaining “there’s a real ‘disconnect’ between the two initiatives” but now we’re busy “understanding the ‘learnings’ from the project” or writing off unpredictable sales trends as “just random”.
     
    Buzzwords come and go – and some are downright cringe-worthy. Good written communication should stand the test of time. It should be well thought out, carefully structured and be written with a clear goal in mind. Ban bullshit bingo and buzzwords to create communication you can be proud of.
     
    I’ve noticed that another trap business owners fall into is allowing their written communication to be an ego-driven exercise instead of a customer-driven one. They are so busy trying to tell customers information they want to convey, they forget to consider what customers actually want. How many times have you seen messages like “We’re the biggest gym in the city” or “We’re experts in SEO”? Drop the ego and user a more customer-focused message such as: “You’ll never have to wait for a machine – ever” or “You will rank No. 1 on Google”.
     
    The written word is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. And yet, it’s often one of the most under-utilised. We haven’t really lost the genes that enable good writing but, somehow, a distinct lack of care has prevailed in a lot of written communication lately. More than being a reflection on the business, it’s really a lost opportunity – a wasted resource.
     
    For centuries, words have influenced and moved people. They have started wars, sealed peace treaties and catalysed world events.
     
    While you might not need your writing to have such a dramatic effect, overlooking this effective tool means you could be ignoring an important factor in your business success. Next time you bash out some text on your keyboard, remember that words can create romance, urgency, professionalism – whatever you want to evoke. Your words can have real impact – choose them carefully.
     
     
    Valerie Khoo is founder of the Sydney Writers’ Centre. She is a corporate trainer who is passionate about helping individuals and corporations learn the stress-free way to effective writing.
    She is also founder of social enterprise Taylor & Khoo, a finalist in the 2006 Anthill Cool Company Awards.
    www.sydneywriterscentre.com.auwww.taylorandkhoo.com
     

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