Many people find it really hard to write for business and marketing purposes about themselves and/or their product or service ? much harder than it is to write about someone or something else. If that sounds familiar, read on; in this article professional business writer Suzan St Maur shares her top tips on how to write about yourself and what you do, efficiently and effectively.
1. Before you do anything else, ask yourself not what you want to say, but what you want to achieve with the text. Be honest with yourself and don't be overly ambitious. Once you've clearly identified your objective keep it in mind throughout the writing exercise. You'll find that keeps you on track far more effectively ? what you want to achieve should define what you say.
2. Forget modesty. As an experienced salesperson would say, "if you don't think you're good, why the hell should I?" Equally of course you don't want to exaggerate your strengths ? that can lead to problems when you're eventually called upon to deliver! But be realistic about what you can do and don't be afraid to describe it in a positive light.
3. A useful way to achieve tip #2 is to step outside of yourself and regard yourself as a product or better still, as a brand. For the purposes of this exercise you are not Mary Doe the person. You are writing about Mary Doe the brand. It's not as difficult as it sounds; write in the third person to start with, if you find that more comfortable. Imagine you're a colleague writing about you.
4. Bear in mind that whoever reads this text probably won't care much about you; they'll only care about what you can do for them. Structure everything with that in mind. If you need to include factual/statistical information (educational details, qualifications, etc.) then make sure you stick it in a box so it's visually separated from the main text.
5. Where possible, identify the audience who will be reading your text and aim your writing squarely at them. It's possible that the "core" of your text can remain the same for a number of different purposes, with individual "tops and tails" aimed at specific audiences. The more relevant your text is to the reader ? telling him/her how you and your service meet their needs ? the more successful the text will be.
6. First person or third person? In point #3 we suggest writing in the third person to make it easier for you to regard yourself in an objective light. However there are times when you may need to present your text in the first person ? e.g. in a letter or email. Try where possible to use the third person ? if for no other reason than it gives you more leeway to write enthusiastically about yourself.
7. Follow the rules of modern business writing; keep it simple. Use "active voice" rather than "passive voice" where possible. Keep your sentences down to a sensible length and use no more than three or four sentences per paragraph. Use cross headings and "pullouts" to break your text up visually and allow the reader to pick up on the main points.
8. Where appropriate, use short clips of testimonials from existing clients or customers. Avoid the pleasantly banal bits and use phrases and sentences that have some meaning and bite. A sentence or two normally is plenty ? any more and the reader will probably just skim over it.
9. Be sure that your grammar, spelling and punctuation are right. Although standards have been slipping in the last few years the recent publication of "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" has focused everyone's attention on the tekkie bits of writing again. Goofs of this nature make your text, and you, look amateurish.
10. Do a reality check on your text after you've completed it. Show it to friends and colleagues and ask not if they "like" it, but if they feel it represents you fairly ? and if not, why not. Then take other people's opinions on board, but don't lose sleep over them. At the end of the day you probably know yourself, and your market, better than anyone else. Don't be afraid to make final judgments.
Canadian-born Suzan St Maur is an international business writer and author based in the United Kingdom. In addition to her consultancy work for clients in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia, she contributes articles to more than 150 business websites and publications worldwide, and has written eleven published books. Her latest eBooks, "The MAMBA Way To Make Your Words Sell" and "Get Yourself Published" and available as PDF downloads from BookShaker.com.
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(c) Suzan St Maur 2003 - 2005