Fri 27 / 03 / 20
Seven ways to write better business copy
Judy Yorke is the owner of The Sentence Works, and led a Brighton Chamber Bite-sized Learning: How to write better business copy on 11 March. In this article, she shares her top seven tips.
By Judy York of The Sentence Works
Millions of people write emails, reports, bids, newsletters and more as part of their job. We work with companies and individuals to help them improve their writing at work. The good news is that making just a few changes can transform your writing.
These easy-to-follow rules are a great way to start.
1. Write in short sentences. This is a rule that applies to whatever you write – from blogs to emails, newsletters and social media posts. Short sentences make your writing much easier to follow. Aim for an absolute maximum of 30 words in each sentence, and preferably keep it to no more than the mid-twenties. If you usually write in long, complicated sentences, this will transform your writing at a stroke.
2. Use plain English. It isn’t clever to use long words. Use simple, everyday terms like “use” instead of “utilise” and “more” instead of “supplementary”.
3. Avoid acronyms and jargon. At best they are irritating and at worst people won’t understand what you mean. This includes phrases like “blue sky thinking” and “looped in”. Using loads of acronyms on a page look awful too.
4. Don’t be boring. Avoid sentences that are all the same length. Mix in some longer sentences (as long as they are under 30 words) with some of just five or six words. Vary your vocabulary too – if you find yourself using the same word constantly, use a thesaurus to find an alternative. Check that your sentences don’t all start the same way. You might be surprised how often you start a sentence with “it is” or “there are”.
5. Cut out the flab. Look for words like “basically” and “currently”. Do you actually need them? If your copy says the same things without these words, then delete them. Also, look for phrases that can be replaced with a single word e.g. “review” rather than “conduct a review”.
6. Read what you’ve written out loud. If you do this, you will pick up long and awkward-sounding sentences more easily. Reading aloud forces you to slow down. It means you will read what is actually on the page rather than what you THINK is on the page. This will help you pick up on errors and typos too.
7. Have a break before you press “send”. If possible, leave your work overnight as you will come back to it in the morning with fresh eyes.
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