There’s a good comedy club in Hobart where I live, and I’ve started to attend quite regularly. Big-name comedians frequently visit, as well as up-and-coming P-platers whom we genuinely love to support as they are the next generation.
What regularly strikes me is that each comedian, within seconds of starting their gig, will either have me super-relaxed and ready to explode (attractively) with my biggest guffaw, or they’ll trigger in me a little anxiety: will this comedian carry it off? Will there be awkward silences? Is their act going to be plain embarrassing? I’ll cross my legs in an attempt not to wriggle.
Reading can trigger similar responses in me – and I know I’m not alone. Business writing needs to reassure the customer too. Yes, beautiful copy with brilliantly chosen, high-impact words would be ideal, but I’m talking about something arguably much easier to achieve.
Is this familiar?
You start browsing a website, the photography is alluring, the location stunning, and so you decide to delve into some detail. At this point you might outlay cash, but you crave reassurance. And here’s where the anxiety kicks in:
Stay for 2 nights and receive your third nights accomodation free.
Hang on a minute!
Two errors in 11 words – that’s a pretty high ratio, but sadly it’s not unusual. And the price tag for this place suggested it was pretty upmarket. Remember how the photos inspired me? The nearby forest looked lush and cool, and I am already longing to plunge into that azure sea. I was going to pay good money to visit this heavenly resort, but now I am not reassured at all. As with the novice comedian, my legs are crossed, and my mouse is a tremor away from indulging in a fresh Google search, because I suddenly don’t trust the people running the place I was tempted to call home for a week.
Two (minor?) changes would have helped a lot:
Stay for 2 nights and receive your 3rd night’s accommodation free.
Better still, as this is a straightforward piece of information we are delivering, let’s just put it in plain English and be done with it:
Stay for 2 nights and receive a 3rd night free.
Nice – and now I’m relaxed, I might do exactly that. So I delve deeper among the alluring images and the parallax scrolling effects.
Uh-oh. I’ve reached the menu for the restaurant under the stars, where I was starting to picture myself in my little black off-the-shoulder number.
A dozen freshly shucked local Oysters, grilled with vine ripened tomato’s, jalapeno’s, freshly-picked coriander & local chedder
Now, some of you think I’m over-egging the pudding, don’t you? But it’s not so. A season’s-worth of your potential customers can spot errors such as the four (maybe five) in the oyster dish, even after a glass or three of your best sauvignon blanc.
And you know what? You will never know why those customers resumed their Google search, strolled away from your menu board, or recycled your brochure.
Avoid misunderstandings, too, by writing clearly. Consider these (unclear) examples:
Our product launch is next Friday. (Use a date to avoid this/next ambiguity.)
Do let us know if you would like to be met. (Use ‘whether’ instead of ‘if’ to elicit a reply either way.)
So, some basic tips for good writing are:
1. Use a dictionary (there are several free online dictionaries)
2. Avoid too many capital letters – in fact avoid them where you reasonably can (such as oysters)
3. Justify text left (it’s easier on the eye) and put only one space between sentences (two is dated)
4. Check what you’ve written carefully for errors and clarity: read it aloud; read it backwards; and better still, ask someone else (putting their customer hat on) to check it for you
5. Engage a copywriter, editor or proofreader
You no doubt have a fabulous, inspiring, altogether brilliant business. Reassure your customers this is so by writing carefully, clearly and accurately.
About Mel Roome
Mel Roome is the principal editor of Hit Send, an editing and proofreading service for businesses. She is located in Hobart, Tasmania. Web copy, blogs, brochures and award submissions are among the documents checked. The unique Hit Send business model means that jobs can be submitted and paid for online, no job is too brief, and prices start at $25. Short jobs can be turned around in 4 hours.