The coronavirus chronicles: Great business writing and why it’s about survival

MASTERING good business writing is a must for all communicators. After all, “great business writing isn’t just about style,” says Jessica Stillman in an article in “It’s about survival.”

She makes her case clear: “If your sales copy isn’t compelling, people won’t buy your products.  If your interoffice communications are unclear, that will hold back collaboration.  No one will invest in your company if you can’t articulate why it’s going to succeed.”

Experts, she continues, are suspicious of “bloated, jargon-filled writing,” which they consider “a warning sign that a company has deeper strategic or execution problems it’s trying to paper over with bloviating prose.”

In short, writing well will make or break your business or career. But how does one get good at it?

Here, Stillman—who is ever on the lookout for useful advice—shares with us some tips from AngelList co-founder Babak Nivi in her article 5 Commandments of Great Business Writing:

“Business writing is a customer service problem”

Stillman starts by imparting an important business writing PR principle—“writing is not about you, your feelings, or your accomplishments. It’s about serving the reader.”

After all, don’t our eyes roll when we come across yet another article from serial self-promoters who indulge in endless reveries about their achievements, their opinions, their families, and whatever?

Nivi frames this truth in a particularly succinct and business friendly way “when he admonishes entrepreneurs and others to see writing as a customer service problem,” she adds.

“You’re not the star—the reader is,” Nivi says. “help them get what they want quickly and effectively as possible. They may want to solve a problem. They may want to be persuaded. Give ‘em the goods.”

“Sum it up in a tweet.”

(Or a headline)”

After all these years, short and sweet still works best when communicating. Otherwise your message could get drowned in a sea of confusing words.

Stillman and Nivi believe that if you can’t sum up what you’re saying succinctly at the end, you’re really in trouble. “If the tweet isn’t compelling, the rest isn’t compelling,” Nivi writes. “The ideal tweet absolves the reader from reading further.” It has been suggested by another expert, Sequoia, to “summarize the company’s business at the back of a business card.”

Stillman also shares with us that when she starts an article, she starts with a headline, which she constantly reworks “because my thinking has shifted.”

Writing, after all, “is about thinking, not expressing.”  But if you don’t start “with a clear destination in mind, expressed in the form of a headline [or a tweet], you’re likely to waste a colossal amount of time.”  And the reader could easily lose interest.

“Writing is rewriting.”

Jeff Bezos, who built a famously writing-centric culture at Amazon, believes that “writing well is an iterative, time-intensive process.”

Stillman recalls how Bezos once warned in a shareholder letter no less that “writers often ‘mistakenly believe that a high standard, six-page memo can be written in one day or two or even after a few hours, when it really might take a week or more.”

While there are naturally gifted writers who can turn out wonderful works at the snap of a finger, writing is actually a skill and talent that can be developed through time, practice, hard work, and determination. And constantly rewriting one’s work is a good start.

Nivi has a suggestion: “Write down your thoughts in a stream of consciousness. Don’t get hung up on diction, then, spend most of your time rewriting and reorganizing—sweat the details. I’m still rewriting posts after I’ve published them.”

“Don’t write your thought process”

Businessmen are busy people for whom time is currency. That is why it is important to get to the point in business writing.  Leave the self-indulgent thought processes for other genres.

Stillman says that it’s best to start off with destination to avoid unfocused, overlong writing. In short, it is important to be able to organize your thoughts before writing your piece.

“The final draft shouldn’t mimic the path you took to come up with the idea,” says Nivi.  “Instead start the piece with a conclusion and make your best case.”

“Scrutinize every word for bias and rhetoric”

This is especially important in today’s politically correct world, where race, gender, and all other biases and scrutinized.  If you’re in business, this could have dire consequences for your brand.

“Learn more about bias,” Nivi advises. “It is important to avoid unintentionally offending people with a poorly-thought-out word of choice, but scrutinizing your text also helps you root out your own unexamined biases, and think more logically.” This can only be good for you and your business.

With this, products that evoke physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being will enhance of these Self-Love Seekers, resulting in better customer loyalty.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chair.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations.  Please send your comments and questions to

Image credits: WWW.FREEPIK.COM


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