"We cannot write this way; it is grammatically incorrect."
That was a response from the SVP over copy that contained a sentence fragment and some lines that started with, dare I say, "And."
We all clutched our pearls.
He was right, well, right about one thing. Some parts of the writing defied convention. I had taken a very dry technical piece and turned it conversational. I also took out all the 75-cent words, created active language, and explained the concepts in terms a high schooler could understand.
Simplicity wins business.
You must have a good message about what you are selling. There is no way around that. However, that is not where the work ends. When writing is tedious, our little attention spans move right along to the next shiny object.
If your engagement is not what you would like, here are two common mistakes in writing and how to fix them.
1. Your writing is dense and full of passive language and big words. Did you know popular books like To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby clock in around a 5th grade reading level?
To increase readability, write at a sixth grade reading level. I promise that writing at a lower reading level will not make your writing "childlike." When something is easier to read, it opens accessibility and allows for easier comprehension. While most adults read at a much higher level, I bet you would agree that we all welcome a little less complexity—especially when making a buying decision.
You can use the free Hemingway app to check your stuff. It is simple to use and will show you where to improve readability.
2. Your tone is formal and robotic.
To increase engagement, write like you talk. I'm not suggesting you drop in "y'all" and f-bombs or intentionally ignore grammar rules just to go against the grain. Writing like you talk is really about writing less formally.
It's ok to break up the rules of grammar, especially when it will help you sound less robotic and formal. Breaking the traditional format can feel more conversational, leave room for your personality, and feel more inviting to your audience.
My favorite trick for this is listening to my work read aloud. You'll find a "read aloud" button in Microsoft Word under the "Review" tab.
Yes, I know what you are thinking; there is no place for lose grammar in a formal paper or announcement. There is a time and place for everything, and you must know your voice and audience. Brand Voice is a critical aspect of your marketing. It defines your company and builds credibility through cohesion. Successful brands do not guess at this!
Finding a unique voice is challenging for almost everyone. That's why you see so much formal writing in your industry. It feels safe. But it all looks the same.
I challenge you to ask yourself why you use dense, dry language.
Do you want to look smart, or do you want people to read your stuff? (Ouch. I still have to ask myself this question sometimes.) Distilling the complex into simple concepts is not easy. But simplicity wins business. The best part? You'll also crank out more content because the feedback and the work will be more enjoyable.
In the standoff I mentioned earlier with the SVP, the audience responded when we tried it my way. Email open rates quadrupled, people engaged during presentations, and sales calls increased. The only thing we changed was the accessibility of the message.
Do you want to be in the EXACT same spot this time next year?
Let's chat if you want more success in the next six months. I've got a great new 1:1 program to hit your message, mindset, and market so you can win more business.