Communication may be a soft skill but it’s essential to the workplace. For those in IT, this can be a challenge, especially when your focus is on creating a great product and not on communicating the benefits of it. Persuasive writing isn’t easy — it takes some practice — but a few tips can point you in the right direction without much work.
We asked the best copywriters, journalists, writing coaches and marketers their thoughts when it comes persuasive writing and communication and we compiled that for you here. Remember, effective communication isn’t just about grammar, it’s about quickly communicating your point and describing it well.
Here are their tips.
Establish Your Goal Early
The first step in persuasive writing is to know your audience. Once you define the audience, you can identify the action you want them to take.
“Have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish. You must have a goal.” Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc.
“All your sentences must serve to fulfill a clear call to action. Identify what you want the audience to do. Then ensure that every sentence you write compels them to do that, whether it’s respond by date X or click here to complete the process. Any sentence that doesn’t drive to that action or wouldn’t convince someone to complete that action is a wasted sentence.” Mishri Someshwar, Founder of Elevating Communication
“Choose one simple message and stick to it: Decide in advance what you want to say. Make it clear in your mind. Draw a picture or a diagram, showing the message you want to convey. Then write your text while keeping your central point in sight.” John Vespasian, author of “On Becoming Unbreakable: How Normal People Become Extraordinarily Self-Confident” and 6 other books
Get to the Point
Your point is not a buried treasure, so don’t make your audience dig for it. Make it apparent by using direct language and only the words needed to convey the point.
“Write first. Edit later. Cut unnecessary words and sentences mercilessly. Aim for being as concise as possible.” Allison Arthur, Marketing Manager at The Kini Group
“For brevity: When editing (which comes long after writing), condense phrases (i.e., “in order to” becomes “to”); remove excess words that aren’t essential to the message; be mindful of your purpose in writing – write to that, everything else is fluff.” Deb Coman, founder of Deb Coman Writing, Editing & Coaching
“Drop the adverbs. Too often, we like to use extra words when writing because we think it adds depth or clarity. The reality is that the more what you write can stand on its own, without a multitude of extra adjectives and adverbs, the more powerful it probably is at its core.Avoid using words like ridiculously, extremely, etc., because if you need those words to make your offer or product sound exciting, you probably have more fundamental problems with the value of your offer in the first place.” Brandon Landis, Head of Content & Chief Customer Happiness Wizard at Responster
Forget the Jargon
While jargon lets people in the same industry communicate more quickly, you don’t want to lose the reader who doesn’t get it. Think of your audience and if it includes anyone who wouldn’t get terms specific to your industry, then chose a better word or leave the term out completely.
“Avoid jargon. Use language that everyone understands; don’t use lingo that excludes some of your readers.” Heidi Wise, Owner + Chief Connections Officer, A Wise Choice Communications
“Edit out any industry jargon or complex words. Don’t try to impress the reader with your writing style and word choice; rather, honor their time by making content easy to digest.” Jessica Velasco, Senior Editor at Chargebacks911
Write in the Active Voice
Writing in the passive voice is something many writers struggle with and may not know that they are doing. Passive voice happens when the subject of the sentence is being acted upon, instead of taking action. Or, as Heidi Wise puts it, “You are doing something, not having something done to you.”
Rewrite sentences so that the subject is taking the action. Think of one of the most well-known passive voice speakers, the Jedi Master Yoda.
Though his penchant for active voice is part of his character, a better wording of the sentence as spoken by anyone else would be: Your fear must be named before you can banish it.
Ask for What You Want
If you’ve established your goal, as mentioned in the first tip, this shouldn’t be difficult. Many writers are afraid to directly ask for something since it can appear rude or aggressive, but this is the only way to get what you want.
“Be direct, be explicit and be clear. Don’t ask for things in an open-ended way. Ask for what you want. People tend to ask for things softly, by adding in unnecessary extra words and phrases like “just” and “if possible”. I’ve found that people appreciate clear, direct writing.”“Leave nothing to chance, be direct and bring the reader along with you. I never use words which show uncertainty or doubt. Worlds that fall into this category include – can, could, may, maybe, possible, probably, perhaps or expect.” Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc.,
“Remove all types of softener words. These words diminish the strength of your words and make you seem tentative or weak. Softener words include just, a bit, I think, maybe or perhaps. This is an easy tip that EVERYBODY could do tomorrow.” Mishri Someshwar, Founder of Elevating Communication
Practice Makes Perfect, Persuasive Sentences
In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to persuasive writing. To Jason Bauman, Junior SEO Associate at Trinity Insight, practice is what leads to better writing.
“The key to writing stronger sentences is practice. It’s the terrible answer no one wants, but it’s true. This means practicing writing and practicing reading.”