Writing for business
The business of writing
When it comes to writing content from a business angle, some writers are keen to demonstrate that they are ‘in the know’ when it comes to the language of wheeling, dealing, marketing and communication.
They like to chuck in as many buzz words as possible to demonstrate their familiarity with the business world and what makes it tick.
But they run the risk of the finished copy being padded with clichés, with phrases they seem to think we all use and therefore anyone reading the words will instantly understand what it is all about. Some phrases are alive for only a short time, thankfully; we don’t seem so desperate to push the envelope or move the needle while setting up robust and meaningful relationships as we did perhaps a couple of years ago.
I remember a freelance job editing a business plan for someone working in consulting services. He was leaving a big practice and setting up on his own and he needed funding. A private investment company was identified as a potential source of finance so he had prepared a business plan to tell them what he proposed to do. It was my job to copy-edit it.
The whole plan was stuffed to bursting point with a horrendous collection of technical consulting language, jargon from business, education and other disciplines, buzzwords and ‘marketing speak’ that would instantly repel all boarders. I had visions of the poor investors wondering what it was that he actually did for a living. Each would make very sure that they were out, all day, if he tried to come and see them.
There was a Marketing and PR section which bristled with planned collateral, white papers and discussion documents, and then, with a flourish, declared that ‘Our brand is our culture and our culture is our brand’. I found I was none the wiser about the new company’s brand or how it would position the newcomer in the consulting world. I was also reminded of Theresa May’s famous pronouncement that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ which did nothing to explain the intricacies of our extrication from the EU.
After some pages of this, I decided that enough was enough; I made a strong coffee and with the aid of the wonderful Track Changes application in Word, I rewrote a couple of pages to show that simpler words, hand in hand with Plain English, would help the potential investors to understand at least the main points of the business plan.
I explained what I was doing and why. I pointed out that just because some investors move in elevated circles it did not mean that they would be able, instantly, to grasp the essence of what the new company would do, who its customers would be and how much of the cash locked in their basement safe would be needed to support the proposed start up. The business plan needed to be plain and simple, short and to the point and be, most of all understandable.
There is nothing wrong with the occasional use of a piece of jargon or more creative language where it makes sense and helps the writer to convey the intended meaning. Just don’t try to cram it all in at once and never forget the reader – give him or her at least a chance of grasping what you are trying to say.