How to find the right words [and write for business]
Knowing how to find the right words at any time can find anyone left staring blankly at white screen, cursor flashing.
It’s enough to silence the most enthusiastic among us who feel compelled to share an important message. All writers face this periodically, even regularly. But what if writing is not your ‘thing’? What then?
It’s a little like asking someone who can’t paint or sew [I am no good at either] to water colour my favourite scene or run up a dress on the sewing machine.
In both cases I’d be pushed to know where to start, and although YouTube may remedy my dilemma, it would take more than a quick video to become proficient.
Knowing how to find the right words is part of being human. It’s also part of being in business. Without an understanding of ‘how’ we find it hard to know ‘what’. It leaves us flying blind; either in confusion hoping for the best, or in frustration because we’re stumbling over words. Sometimes, we might not even start.
What engineers taught me about finding the right words
I gained a deep understanding of knowing how to find the right words could impact business from time spent in engineering consulting firms. Although these companies – at least the ones I worked at – strived to create ‘seller-doer’ engineers, it proved a challenge.
Yes it’s a generalisation, however engineers tend to be heavily left-brain oriented, that is, highly analytical and methodical in their thinking. This is perfect for designing bridges, buildings, and other big things, but has less relevance in relationship building.
Take an engineer to a client meeting set up just to stay connected and it’s very likely they won’t see the point.
Now I’m hardly a fan of small talk, but working in a business development role in these organisations, I knew the value of staying in touch with existing and potential clients ‘just because’ and not just when a job loomed on the horizon.
Although I may not have had all the technical words in my conversatione with these people it mattered little because the right words were things I was all over. Words like:
How are you?
What business challenges keep you awake at night?
We might be able to help you with that. May I follow up with xyz?
I never dived into the technical. First, because I couldn’t, and second, at this stage, it wasn’t important. What was important was to show that I cared enough to talk about them, not me.
No, we do not want to be Bette Midler in Beaches. That’s enough about me. What do you think of me?
Knowing how to find the right words and write for business is the same. It means caring enough to think deeply enough, and then articulate what’s important to you in ways that make sense to you audience without losing the technical integrity of your message.
A bit like sewing and painting water colours, it’s a skill that requires cultivation and practice, particularly if we want to realise any level of fluency. It also demands ongoing refinement. We call it craftsmanship for a reason, right?
A process helps to find the right words
My desire to bring a repeatable process to the task of crafting the right words was born out of seeing my clients’ struggle to write for business. I quickly discovered they were writing without a foundation, a bit like placing the roof on a house, only there’s not scaffolding in place. The net effect is a nagging feeling you are second guessing yourself [because you are].
I felt it would be wise to understand the elements of knowing how to find the right words and write for business, so I came up with a process for doing just that. In my mind it seemed sensible to start with a solid foundation of the essentials:
- The problems you solve
- How you solve them
- Your most meaningful messages [those things your clients or customers must know about you]
- The tone of voice [yes, it’s a thing] and language [the right words]
These elements work together like pieces of a puzzle to create a whole picture. Together, these elements are your business’ very own ‘lexicon’. In other words, the right words for you and your audience. This is not just a nice exercise to make you feel good. It’s important for honing in on the point of intersection at which connection is forged.
Do you really care?
The right words – let’s call it the language we use – matters, and for genuine, enduring connections – let’s call it repeat business – it matters a lot.
That kind of language or right words takes what’s important to you – let’s call this your products and services – explained in ways that make sense to you audience. That language must be:
- Straightforward, even for technical products and services
- Reflect you/your business sincerely
Although the exercise of find the right words is not difficult, it does require time, effort, and a little consideration that goes beyond the superficial.
This might seem extreme for a freelancer working solo, but consider the potential that at some point in future when you no longer fly solo and perhaps engage another to write for you.
If your business employs others, then the importance of investing time to articulate the right words increases. Why? Because without a ‘way of saying things’ your most meaningful messages can be very quickly lost in translation or worse, not communicated at all. Just ask any business owner who’s tried to have team members follow a script. You might ask, How hard can it be? Try and you’ll find out.
The main message here is knowing how to find the right words is far easier with a foundation of understanding of what you want to say and how you say it. I’ve learned that investing the time, together with a little deeper thinking affords a business owner the benefit of more conscious communication irrespective of who’s doing the talking. Importantly, it shows valued customers and client you care enough to think about them.
And that approach rests at the heart of conscious conscious communication.
Macushla Collins is a content coach. She helps business owners, content creators and technical professionals create content that supports clear and conscious marketing communication. If you’re trying to figure out the right words to write content for your business and finding it hard, maybe you could benefit from some support. Access the Business Content + Communication Guide or reach out for a chat.