Your Voice on PaperBy: Marcia Yudkin
Whenever you speak with a stranger on the phone, in just half a minute, your listener gets an impression of a personality, background and attitudes. Brusque. Upbeat. Slow-witted. Prissy. Confident. Similarly, whenever you put words down on paper for business, you create an aura that accompanies the meaning you intend to convey. Your reader gets an impression of what you'd be like to do business with. Energetic. Pretentious. Genteel. Candid. Slimy.
For instance, imagine the person behind each of these four business communications.
Your reactions may differ. You might appreciate person #2's apprehensiveness or find person #4 refreshingly forthright. There is no magic voice that appeals to everyone, every time.
Still, it's wise to match the personality of your prose with your business image and your target market. Do you want to present yourself as the customer's ally? As a no-nonsense expert? As a refined, cosmopolitan colleague? As an efficient, down-to-earth service provider?
Feel free to use words you rarely see in business, such as "haggle," "wacky," "peachy." Distinctive language makes your message more memorable.
Avoid stuffy word choices like "apprise," where shorter, ordinary words like "inform" or "tell" communicate well.
Convey a friendly, personal spirit by addressing the reader as "you" and referring to yourself as "I."
Present tense ("Our program brings you...") conveys more confidence than past tense ("...brought..."), future tense ("...will bring...") or the conditional ("would bring...")
Unless you're an uncommonly nimble writer, don't try to become someone in writing that you're not. Phoniness hurts in marketing. Even if your sleight of words worked, you'd run the danger of disappointing the prospect when he or she called or showed up at your office.
© Copyright 1999 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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