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Break the rules in business writing

Six men standing in corporate suits, one man upside down in colourful clothes

I attend a gym class every Tuesday morning that involves lifting a lot of heavy weights. It also involves packing up those heavy weights at the end of the class.

The instructor, Frank, is very clear about the rules of his class. No one is to put their weights away until the end of the class – no exceptions. It’s unsafe. Plain and simple.

But every week, at least one person puts away a weight during the class. Without fail.

And every week, an exasperated Frank is forced to repeat his rule.

So why do people continue to do it?

Pushing the boundaries sometimes, is human nature. We like to test the waters – and see what we can get away with. We like to set our own rules.

That got me wondering. Why don’t we do the same with our business writing?

Most business writing is boring. It all sounds the same.

Too often, business writing is weighed down with big, ‘impressive’ words, long sentences and meaningless corporate jargon. You just have to visit some law firm or management consultancy websites to see what I mean.

Here are some sentences I pulled from the About Us section of several Australian law firm websites:

Law firm 1: “What sets us apart from other law firms is our unrelenting commitment to our client relationships.“

Law firm 2: “Delivering the best possible results for our clients relies on a real sense of what matters.”

Law firm 3: “We aim to provide outstanding service to our clients by combining consistently rigorous analysis with astute judgment, to obtain the optimum result for each client.”

Law firm 4: “We take a fresh, pragmatic, commercial approach to legal practice that focuses on getting the best results for our diverse and blue-chip client base.”

Law firm 5: “We focus on delivering great outcomes for our clients.”

Boring, boring, boring. Who could possibly distinguish between these firms? Not me.

So now let’s look at another law firm I came across:

Law firm 6: “Before talking ‘about us’ we want to talk about you. Are you an individual or a business who understands the critical role that IP plays in what you do? Protection of your IP … is crucial to the value of your business, so it’s important to speak with people who ‘do IP’ every day.”

That’s different, isn’t it? I know something real about this firm.

Now take a step back and read the homepage of your website. Do you sound just the same as your competitors? If your answer is yes, then don’t expect your customers and prospects to sit up and take notice of what you have to say.

Break the rules in your business writing. Not your gym class.