Why business leaders must learn to write!

Why does corporate writing have to be so poor? So often it’s riddled with business or technical jargon, and delivered in long blocky paragraphs with little light or shade. But the worst corporate writing is where there is no sense of an enjoyable narrative journey that heads satisfyingly towards a well-argued conclusion.

Poor article writing usually kicks off without a hook or a news peg – which should be the very reason they are being written in the first place – then blunders on interminably before coming to a boring halt. Any reader worth their salt will have given up by the end of a few lines. Most won’t have been tempted to read the piece in the first place.

It’s very strange, people who fill the senior company ranks have risen to the top through a combination of dedication, expertise, imagination and ambition. When they talk about business, especially their business, they are entertaining and articulate.

But when writing about business, too often they use clichéd language and want to “play safe” by not offering interesting opinions or viewpoints. They live in fear of offending anyone – colleagues mostly, but also customers, shareholders, suppliers, and the amorphous general public.

Of course, opinions and personal insights are the very stuff that readers want to know. 

If business leaders brought their passion and imagination to the writing process, and learnt a few tips and techniques of how to construct lively, well-argued articles, they could easily produce entertaining prose that editors would happily publish and readers willingly read.

Some of the problem is pride. It’s understandably hard for people who’ve successfully climbed the greasy career ladder to admit that their writing needs a fresh approach and could benefit from a bit of coaching. But for managers that treat writing like any other skill that can be learned and improved through regular practice, the benefits are great.

They can write freely, quickly and be in control of their company’s messages. They can sit down to write with pleasure, rather than grinding out something boring and dutiful.  They need to bear in mind that if it’s painful to write it’s often equally painful to read.

Neil Boom, director of Blue Gull Media

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