The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We vs I; The importance of grammar and getting it right.


I learnt the hard way. I thought it was what businesses wanted. Clients would ask to sound ‘big’, even though some clients were actually sole traders. As a writer, it’s my purpose to put words on paper; to research the product, business or service that a client wants to showcase. It’s my role to ensure the appropriate language which truly represents their style is featured throughout. Easy, huh? That’s what I thought.

I found that clients wanted to sound like corporations; they wanted words on brochures, websites, pamphlets, and letters which made them portray an image of professionalism and tone, something which made them sound like a CEO of a national bank. Trouble is, they weren’t – they were running small businesses with fewer than 5 people and less than $750,000 in annual turnover. An IT client of mine - with fewer than 3 employees, wanted to ‘sound big’. The client was situated slap-bang in the heart of community life, near a busy road with plenty of run-on traffic. He could offer something which the bigger firms couldn’t: personal service. The client was adamant of the words he wanted and the approach he deemed suitable.

He gave me a document which contained IT babble and techo jargon, something about a flux capacitor, IP provision service, and an accredited service of integrated network solutions. I had no idea what to write. Yet I had my brief. Work needed to be done and a client had to be satisfied.

I researched and wrote away until the early hours. Pleased with my work, I slept on it and awoke fresh and raring to go. I open the word document which contained my words. And guess what? I hated it. It contained the following:

· Frameworks, going forward, leveraging, solution and integration.

Do these words mean anything to you? Chances are they don’t mean much to anyone outside of the IT industry. Corporate rubbish morphed into small business. Worse, it contained too many nouns (“direct return on investment and maximum business efficiency with our integrated IT solutions”). I learnt that business professionals, especially those running a smaller venture, don’t have to pretend. Words are you. The words you use should sum up everything about you.

Too many people get caught up in sounding like someone else. Business people are afraid to write how they speak. They use big words and long sentences. For example, I was presented with the following:

“We are preparing a vigorous review of our financial structure and budgetary constraints and have identified the Research and Development department as a major contributor of growth and innovation for this company which remains vehemently geared towards technology driven solutions.”

Try saying that over a wine with friends. The sentence meant, “We are reviewing our finances.”

I learnt that people should be open, lively, friendly, and convincing. Businesses come to me because of this very reason.

Stuart Evans is a professional copywriter, PR practitioner and freelance journalist and is the director of Vibe Communications.

The Australian Small Business Blog

1 comment :

Deborah said...

I'm guilty! But what would the majority of consumers prefer? Knowing they're dealing with a sole trader (may mean limited products, service or knowledge) or a larger business?

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