Why do we write?

Unless you are writing a literary work, which is a form of artistic expression, your purpose in writing is usually to inform or persuade your audience. Often, you want to do both.

In the fund industry, certainly, informing and persuading the intended audience is the aim of almost every piece of writing that is produced. It’s good to remember this when you sit down to write.

“The purpose of writing is to inform and persuade your audience”

If you remind yourself that the purpose of writing is to inform and persuade your audience, you can avoid many common writing mistakes. The first and perhaps most lethal of these is to ignore your audience.

If you want to convince your readers, it’s obvious that you should have some idea who they are. It’s equally obvious that you should think about what interests them and that you should try to avoid confusing them or boring them to death.

“A lot of business writing is not suitable for the intended audience; sometimes, it’s not suitable for any audience”

These points are obvious, but writers often don’t address them, particularly in a business context. A lot of business writing is confusing and boring. Often, it’s not suitable for the intended audience; sometimes, it’s not suitable for any audience.

Perhaps it is encrusted in arcane jargon. Perhaps it is lifeless because all the sentences are structured in the same way. Perhaps it fails to engage the reader because it is too impersonal.

These are all problems that can be fixed. The first step on the way – and the best way to avoid these problems in the first place – is to remember why we write.

Finding your voice

Retro microphone
Writing voices are trickier to modulate than speaking voices. (Image by tookapic from Pixabay.)

Do you consciously think about your voice as you write? If not, there’s a risk that some of your texts may strike the wrong note.

Writing voices are trickier to modulate than speaking voices because the tone of a text relies only on words and grammatical structures. In writing, we can’t use facial expressions, body language or changes in volume to add nuances to our messages. Perhaps that’s why GIFs and smileys are so popular on social media. It’s not appropriate to use smileys in a fund report or press release, so what can you do instead?

“You should adapt your writing voice to suit your audience and your intention”

Think about how you talk to your granny, a puppy, old university friends, colleagues and clients. Do you use the same vocabulary, sentence structures and vocal pitch regardless of who you are speaking to? Probably not. Similarly, you should adapt your writing voice to suit your audience and your intention.

A good place to start is with your words. Experiment with using more and less formal vocabulary (chief executive officer/CEO/boss; statistics/numbers/stats, for example). Similarly, notice how using contractions such as “it’s” and “won’t” changes the tone of your text.

Experiment with your sentence structures and punctuation too. And notice how serious journalists use very short sentences, rhetorical questions and sentences beginning with “and” or “but” to emphasise key points or to signal a change in direction.

“Don’t lose the connection between your speaking and writing voices”

Most importantly, don’t lose the connection between your speaking and writing voices. Try reading your texts aloud as you write and edit them. If a sentence doesn’t sound right when it’s spoken, it probably doesn’t read well either.

A natural, conversational writing voice exudes confidence and professionalism, and so it’s well worth learning how to make the most of yours.