Most job listings include writing skills in the list of applicant requirements. Even when the position doesn’t require wordsmithing skills every day, employers want to hire people who can communicate effectively through the written word. After all, it reflects poorly on the company when an employee sends out emails or other documents riddled with errors or that lack clarity.
However, good writing skills aren’t only important when you work for someone else. As an entrepreneur, if you cannot write well, you risk failing to get funding, as you won’t be able to market effectively. The importance of good writing skills in all sectors is one of the major reasons that most universities place a priority on writing skills in their curriculum — skills that help entrepreneurs avoid these common writing mistakes.
1. Using Jargon
You might think that you are “synergistically shifting a paradigm by getting the key stakeholders to buy-in to your out-of-the-box thinking,” but when you use that language, you’re more likely to drive the reader to toss your business plan into the reject pile. Using jargon hides meaning, and instead of sounding dynamic and knowledgeable, you sound like someone who doesn’t really know what she wants to say. Avoid “business-speak” and say what you mean.
2. Focusing on the Wrong Things
Entrepreneurs often waste precious pages of their business plans reviewing their product’s features and taking about why it’s new and different, without revealing what the product will actually do for consumers. What are the benefits? What pain points does the product relieve? How is it different from other products on the market? That’s what your investors or the loan officer wants to know.
3. Being Boring
Want to ensure that your business will never get off the ground? Be dull. Whether it’s your business plan or your website content, if you don’t get to the point, keep it simple, and avoid repeating yourself, your readers are going to nod off and find something else to read — and buy. Use creative language to paint vivid images in your readers’ minds.
4. Not Telling a Story
One of the best ways to avoid being boring is to tell a story. Humans are innately drawn to a good story — it’s why we tune in to our favorite TV shows and shell out the big bucks to go to the movies. However, while business stories should be entertaining (see: not boring), they should also be shared with a specific goal or outcome in mind. Stories can create connections and change behaviors, so use them to your advantage.
5. Not Following Basic Journalistic Principles
All of your business writing should have a beginning, middle, and end. Too many times, entrepreneurs fail to construct a compelling introduction or conclusion, leaving their readers confused or indifferent. When writing content — a blog post, an article, white paper, anything — remember basic journalistic principles. Use the inverted pyramid model to share the most important information first, with the least important information coming at the end. Never leave your readers hanging, or searching for more information.
6. Not Knowing Your Audience
How you communicate with customers will be different from how you communicate with the bank or with vendors or with the media. Keep that in mind when you are writing, and choose the appropriate terminology and tone. When creating content, it’s important to know not only who your customer is demographically, but also what is important to them. What problems are they facing? What trends have their attention? What annoys them? With that in mind, you can create content that fulfills their needs.
Everyone misplaces a comma now and then. However, if your grammar is atrocious, it reflects poorly on you and your business. Brush up on your grammatical skills, use your word-processing program’s tools, and ask someone else to review your work to avoid unfortunate mistakes.
8. Poor Spelling
Like bad grammar, poor spelling tells people that you are uneducated or that you simply can’t be bothered to hit the spell check button — even if that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Take two minutes to check our spelling. It could save a lot of embarrassment.
9. Using “Text Speak”
The abbreviations and terminology used when texting your friends has no place in business communication. Nothing says unprofessional like “BRB,” “LOL,” and “JTLYK” popping up in your messages to clients and vendors. Unless you’re communicating with a close friend, spell out the words.
Writing mistakes are easy to make, but they are just as easy to avoid. Take time to develop prose that’s interesting, grammatically correct, and targeted to your audience, and you’ll write a ticket to success for your business.
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