Your website, your press releases and any other writing you use to inform customers and clients can make or break your company image. There are a number of pitfalls companies fall into with writing, especially when translating your texts from another language, making careful editing is a must for professional, engaging copy. Consider the following examples of what companies frequently do wrong, and how you can improve your writing.
Writing generally can seem a safe way to appeal to a broad audience, avoiding specifics and relying on superlative language.
Smith Partners is a global leader in financial planning. Hundreds of wealthy individuals, businesses and funds rely on our expertise in this area. Our highly qualified professionals work as an international team to generate significant returns on your investments.
Grammatically, this text is fine, and it may even seem persuasive. By talking in general terms, however, it could be applied to almost any company – making much of the wording meaningless. Expressions like global leader, expertise, and highly qualified professionals are clichéd and often redundant – for example, it would be surprising to find a business staffed by anyone that wasn’t a professional. Likewise, claims like hundreds of wealthy businesses rely on us and significant returns are too vague to make an impact, and are unlikely to convince a reader. The text can be made much stronger if we add examples in the place of generalisations and clichéd claims.
Smith Partners provides financial planning for individuals and businesses in the manufacturing and energy sectors. Our international team advises on investments in equity, fixed-income and index funds – and was responsible for $6m in returns for our clients in 2016.
Note there is now no claim that this firm is a global leader or has expertise – the confidence of offering a simple statement of who you are and what you have done demonstrates that with no fluff.
- Overblown language
Unnecessary and ineffective wording can also occur when a company tries too hard to sound clever (using excessively ‘wordy’ phrasing) or to sound appealing (using too much descriptive language). Overblown text is difficult to read and appears unprofessional, demonstrating poor communications skills.
Faraday Interior Design offers a professional and exquisite service, by listening to our clients’ needs, requests and requirements in order to achieve 100% client satisfaction and ensure the best designs and resources are provided. We are on hand to provide the very best care so you can rest assured you will receive an incomparable service.
This phrasing seems unnatural and frequently redundant. Needs, requests and requirements all cover the same point. Ensure the best designs…are provided dilutes the more direct (confident) provide. Exquisite and incomparable are lofty, even arrogant claims with no evidence. A much simpler, direct introduction is more appealing.
Faraday Interior Design provides premium services in home and event design. We bring your vision to life through close, personal consultation.
In this edit (which you can see is far shorter), fewer, simpler words replace the many drawn out statements in the original. Customer satisfaction is demonstrated through a specific image with bring your vision to life. Close, personal consultation stands for all the phrasing covering listening, care and servicing.
This revised text contains arguably woolly descriptive words– premium and close, personal – and a rather cliché phrase, bring your vision to life. In limited capacity you do need to choose something to represent you – and you can make attempts to be convincing. The important point is that such language is chosen carefully and used sparingly. In this example, these phrases emphasise working closely on the client’s personal idea at a higher tier of service.
- Inaccurate language
Mistakes in your text are the first sign of an unprofessional service. This is an especially important area to consider with translated texts, where poorly edited translations can create red flags for readers.
Our core business is to providing website assessments, primarily to customers in England’s North. By partnering with a specialized service providers, we have expanded capacity to analyse your website in detail.
This example contains three red flags that suggest a bad translation: a confused verb structure, to providing, an incorrect article, a specialized…providers, and unnatural phrasing, England’s North. On their own these could seem like minor errors, but if a reader is alerted to a bad translation then they may become critical of other aspects, such as clumsy phrasing like we have expanded capacity.
Any mistakes in your writing weaken your company image, but if a reader notices these mistakes come from a poor translation they will jump to two immediate conclusions: (1) you are not used to operating in their market, suggesting you may be new or providing a long-distance service; and (2) by not investing in a higher quality translation you are either lazy, cheap or ignorant. This may sound harsh but you will be judged harshly on your mistakes.
- Writing without an audience in mind
All of these points speak to one overall issue – failing to consider who is reading your text, and how they will read it. This occurs when you simply want to put your information out there without questioning its active purpose. Not editing your text for a specific audience can lead to providing inappropriate information and using inappropriate language.
Providing too much information, such as a thorough company history on a website’s blurb, fails to appreciate that a client may want just enough information to form a decision about you. Less is almost always more in this case – and a failure to filter your information can seem like you either do not respect their time or you do not understand the most important points you have to offer.
Inappropriate language or information is a more nuanced problem, and one that is especially problematic when writing for a new market, such as a new country. Different cultures have different values that must be considered – in English, for example, you may find that direct sales language is acceptable in the United States while more modest text is expected in the United Kingdom.
Effective editing of your text starts with this consideration – the question of who you are writing for and why – and brings all the other problems into line. It is not enough to produce a piece of text with information that you wish to share. You must consider what the client or customer wants to know and how that information can produce an action. This is a delicate process that requires more than just putting your ideas in writing – you are not the best judge of how your own writing is interpreted. A proper edit helps the final text meet the intended purpose.