Writing Skills: Planning Business Messages; Rewriting and editing
Different media gurus have different theories about how to craft ads, press releases, brochures, memos, sales letters and other marketing materials. However, most successful message suggestions have several things in common. To create a business message that has impact, you’ll need to solve a problem or offer a benefit to motivate your staff, clients or customers to act.
Demonstrate a Need
Most business messages should start with explaining why the reader should read your message. This is known as selling the benefits, rather than the features. For example, if you own a clothing store, emphasize that you offer trendiness, affordability or some other benefit your target customers want. If you’re sending an inter-office business memo, don’t lead with an announcement that there’s a meeting Friday at 10:30 am in the conference room — start by telling your employees you will be launching a new product, then announce the time and place of the meeting. The more interested people are in your message, the more likely they will take steps to remember to act.
Offer a Non-Specific Solution
Once you’ve demonstrated a need, which often points out a problem, give a general solution. For example, an advertisement headline or main photo might point out the frustration or unpleasantness of being overweight. Once that headline or graphic has caught the attention of those people who are overweight and want to address that, the ad will give a solution, such as aerobic exercise or calorie control. If you give your business or product as the solution without telling why it works first, you won’t sell your audience as effectively.
Show Your Solution
Once you’ve convinced your audience they have a need, problem or interest and you’ve given the generic solution, show you how you can give them that benefit. A car dealer might run an ad with a photo of a person standing next to a car with the hood raised. The next message might be that regular car maintenance prevents breakdowns and costly repairs that could have been avoided. The ad would then point out that Bob’s Car Dealership has a service shop that offers regular auto maintenance to help you keep your car running. The message would note that spending hundreds on annual maintenance at Bob’s can save thousands in avoidable repairs. An inter-office email or memo to management might announce that the company is losing sales to a new competitor, that you are considering several options to address this and that you are holding a meeting to solicit ideas to decide on the final plan.
Call to Action
Many business messages end with a call to action to prevent the reader from forgetting to buy, visit or order. A call to action can be as simple as including, “Call Today!,” above a phone number. It can direct the reader to a website address, offer a time-sensitive discount, provide a reward for mentioning how the person saw the ad or give other instructions for buying or ordering.
Revising and editing are the two tasks you undertake to significantly improve your essay. Both are very important elements of the writing process. You may think that a completed first draft means little improvement is needed. However, even experienced writers need to improve their drafts and rely on peers during revising and editing. You may know that athletes miss catches, fumble balls, or overshoot goals. Dancers forget steps, turn too slowly, or miss beats. For both athletes and dancers, the more they practice, the stronger their performance will become. Web designers seek better images, a more clever design, or a more appealing background for their web pages. Writing has the same capacity to profit from improvement and revision.
Understanding the Purpose of Revising and Editing
Revising and editing allow you to examine two important aspects of your writing separately, so that you can give each task your undivided attention.
- When you revise, you take a second look at your ideas. You might add, cut, move, or change information in order to make your ideas clearer, more accurate, more interesting, or more convincing.
- When you edit, you take a second look at how you expressed your ideas. You add or change words. You fix any problems in grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. You improve your writing style. You make your essay into a polished, mature piece of writing, the end product of your best efforts.
Many people hear the words critic, critical, and criticism and pick up only negative vibes that provoke feelings that make them blush, grumble, or shout. However, as a writer and a thinker, you need to learn to be critical of yourself in a positive way and have high expectations for your work. You also need to train your eye and trust your ability to fix what needs fixing. For this, you need to teach yourself where to look.
Creating Unity and Coherence
Following your outline closely offers you a reasonable guarantee that your writing will stay on purpose and not drift away from the controlling idea. However, when writers are rushed, are tired, or cannot find the right words, their writing may become less than they want it to be. Their writing may no longer be clear and concise, and they may be adding information that is not needed to develop the main idea.
When a piece of writing has unity, all the ideas in each paragraph and in the entire essay clearly belong and are arranged in an order that makes logical sense. When the writing has coherence, the ideas flow smoothly. The wording clearly indicates how one idea leads to another within a paragraph and from paragraph to paragraph.
Sometimes writers get caught up in the moment and cannot resist a good digression. Even though you might enjoy such detours when you chat with friends, unplanned digressions usually harm a piece of writing.
Mariah stayed close to her outline when she drafted the three body paragraphs of her essay she tentatively titled “Digital Technology: The Newest and the Best at What Price?” But a recent shopping trip for an HDTV upset her enough that she digressed from the main topic of her third paragraph and included comments about the sales staff at the electronics store she visited. When she revised her essay, she deleted the off-topic sentences that affected the unity of the paragraph.
Writing at Work
Many companies hire copyeditors and proofreaders to help them produce the cleanest possible final drafts of large writing projects. Copyeditors are responsible for suggesting revisions and style changes; proofreaders check documents for any errors in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation that have crept in. Many times, these tasks are done on a freelance basis, with one freelancer working for a variety of clients.
Careful writers use transitions to clarify how the ideas in their sentences and paragraphs are related. These words and phrases help the writing flow smoothly. Adding transitions is not the only way to improve coherence, but they are often useful and give a mature feel to your essays.