Business Leaders: Activate Your Writing.
"Notable shifts in our company have taken place in the last month." That's the opening line in an email I received today from a huge software company.
So I'm wondering, "what shifted," and I read on thinking I'll see something negative, like intrusive government regulations or a big change in executive management. Right? When you write, "notable shifts ... have taken place," it sounds like stuff you don't want to talk about but you need to so make it sound distant and impersonal.
The second sentence, however, said, "[The company] has acquired two new companies." Okay, that sentence alone has problems, but let's consider the two together, rewritten. "We acquired [Company 1] and [Company 2] in July, making our own company fireworks. This keeps [The Company] on a path to creating a more diverse organization that will better serve our employees, partners, and end users. Read the details here [link]."
It's not even about making the communication more interesting or enticing (though that helps). It's about taking ownership of and responsibility for the things your company does. Activate your writing.
I wrote a weekly newsletter for an engineering firm for several years, and my main focus (not "a focus of mine," see?) was to activate their language in internal communication. I shared stories recognizing employees and their top-notch efforts and efficiency-improving best practices. And I'd get story submissions from managers saying, "The problem was found and the solution was implemented by (insert engineering process here)."
Our shared goal - the client's and mine - was to showcase employees who made great choices, and to share that behavior to encourage others to do the same. Here's how I would improve that manager's submission: "The ABCD engineering group, including (employee names here), discovered (brief description of issue) while prepping tools for the day's work. Using (state a company process here), this team corrected the problem which allowed us to (insert benefit to company here)."
Here are the 5 ways to make your business writing move:
- Use active phrasing: "We did this." Not, "This was done."
- Make it personal: People, not just departments, do things at your company, and you can give them credit for it.
- Focus on the outcome: Your readers don't necessarily want or need all the details. "Acquiring these companies, we can now (do something)."
- Keep it brief: You might need to write a detailed description. But you probably don't. So don't.
- Do it again: Repeat steps 1 through 4 often.