Our client was growing rapidly throughout the U.S. based on clearly differentiating the quality of its service against what was offered by the huge national organizations that dominated the industry. The plan worked. Its business grew and it was attracting new talent wherever it went based on its culture, vision and mission.
The CEO found one troublesome and unexpected consequence of the growth: a decline in the overall quality of communication. Research found it occurring in new areas and also in existing markets where staff was under the gun to deliver on increased demands for company products. The CEO believed that every communication – from short email to formal letters and proposals – needed to support the quality image of the brand. How to build firm-wide standards without having platoons of editors in every region?
The solution: the team created a guide to better writing. The primer covered how to think about positioning, branding, research, understanding the audience, having a personality, preparing to write, basic rules for better writing, keys to editing and how to test messages before launch. It took almost one year to create the primer. The goal: keep it tight and bright. The result: 10 short chapters on 30 pages. The hard part: writing short.
For the best traditional resources to help your writing, browse through these fine works, which provided many big ideas for our little primer.
- On Writing Well, William Zinsser. HarperCollins Publishers, 1990.
- The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein, Free Press, 2005
- The Classic Guide to Better Writing, Rudolf Flesch and A.H. Lass. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
- Business Communication: Building Critical Skills, Kitty Locker. McGraw-Hill, 2010.
- Eats, Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss. Gotham Books, 2003.
- Fresh Passion: Get A Brand Or Die A Generic, Michael D. Brown. Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2013.
- How to Write Short, Word Craft for Fast Times, Roy Peter Clark. Little Brown and Co., 2013.
- It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences, June Casagrande. Ten Speed Press (Crown Publishing), New York, 2003.
- The Associated Press Stylebook, Perseus Publishing, 2014.
- The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well, Paula LaRocque. Grey and Guvner Press, 2003.
- The Elements of Business Writing, Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly. Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991.
- The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Allyn and Bacon, 2000 (earlier editions, 1959 and 1972 by McMillan Publishing Co.).
- Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, Gerald M. Weinberg. Dorset House, 2005.