This week…
Do You Write Like A Saxon Or A Roman?

Do you write like a Saxon or a Roman?

Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able. Anglo-Saxon is a livelier tongue than Latin so use Anglo-Saxon words.
- William Strunk, The Elements Of Style: A Writers Guide

If you’re busy with plenty of responsibilities (and if you are, thanks for reading this) you've probably produced many hundreds of words during the year in e-mail, reports, appraisals and both internal and external communications.

So it would be useful, wouldn’t it, to discover some helpful hints about how to write in a way that moves people to take action. After all, if your writing is not influencing people then it’s probably not working…

One place to look for inspiration is the world of the direct marketing writer. Sometimes known as "junk mail", the direct marketing industry literally lives on it’s ability to use written communications to change people’s behaviour. Whatever you think of the avalanche of direct mail that blights your life, it remains a successful and profitable way of persuading people to do things.

And as a manager, YOU are in the business of persuading people, often in writing, to take action, change their mind or buy into the company philosophy.

Direct mail writers are a unique breed. The best ones have spent their working lives testing and retesting different combinations of words to find out which works the best. Uniquely they have evolved the art of using words into a real science.

Here’s some guidance adapted from the Institute of Direct Marketing on how to use your writing to change peoples behaviour:

⇒You may want to print this checklist and keep it handy for your next piece of business writing⇐

Before You Begin

Know your audience (talk to them).
Think about their likes/dislikes, their problems/opportunities, their hopes and fears
Translate the characteristics of what you want them to do into benefits for your audience
What’s in it for them?
Aim to establish one major benefit that makes your communication or product or service unique

When You Are Writing

Comparison Of Roman & Saxon Words
Roman words (from Latin)Saxon words (from Old English)
InformationNews
IndicateShow
ImmediatelyNow
RegulationRule
ConversationTalk
PublicationBook

You may like to think about which one of these hints you could practice this week and notice what happens…