Write to a person, not a crowd

Writing can be intimidating. Between the blinking cursor overlooking the blank page and plain old self-doubt, it’s tough to get started.

Here’s some good news: there are a few things that separate poor writing from mediocre writing. And one item that can boost mediocre writing to good, or even very good writing.

So, what’s the difference between poor writing and mediocre writing? Generally, it’s pretty simple: the technicals. Poor grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. 

For poor writing, there are easy fixes: 

  • Run spellcheck. 
  • Buy a subscription to Grammarly. 
  • Write short, simple, clear sentences.

I’m serious. That’s it.

You can communicate the facts in an acceptable way with these rules. You may even surpass mediocrity. You can be funny, interesting, and even compelling. It worked for Ernest Hemingway—but I’m not promising anything more than decent.

Bank writing is full of long, meandering sentences and circuitous thoughts. It’s much better to get to the point with clarity and brevity. Most of the content you’ll write will communicate features of complex financial products in the simplest terms.

Try me out. Rewrite the sentence below using shorter, more direct, sentences.

To get the most out of your account, download our new mobile application and you’ll get all the features and benefits of a visit to the bank right in your hand.

So, now you’re ready to move from mediocre to good. Are you ready for that one tip?

Write to an individual instead of an audience.

Sometimes, it’s easy and overt:

Mediocre: Everyone will love XYZ Bank.

Good: You’ll love XYZ Bank.

It’s one a word change that makes a difference.

Other times, it’s a bit more nuanced:

Mediocre: We have banking solutions for every need!

Good: We specialize in enhancing your life with our products.

This change is more about tone. Again, it relies on simply using a second-person pronoun. And the second statement doesn’t sound like it’s being read from a stage.

Therein lies the difference. Too many folks sit down to write and imagine they’re walking up to a lectern on a huge stage, with blinding lights in their eyes—getting ready to deliver a masterpiece to throngs of people. You think of your advertising audience as a literal audience.

That just isn’t the case. While you might be writing to tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people, each one of those people will likely engage with your messaging individually.

One person at a time sees a digital ad on his/her phone. If you don’t think that is a personal experience, try grabbing a stranger’s phone, or peeking over a stranger’s shoulder to read the ads as they scroll.

Even a more public medium like a billboard is more personal than you think. Most reactions happen internally. It’s the voice in your head that says, “Hm. It might be a good idea to switch banks.”

Your audience is not gathered in one place, holding similar beliefs, or even thinking alike. You must write your ad copy, blogs, social text, etc., as though you’re talking to another individual, looking her/him in the eyes.

Again, sometimes this is in the basic wording. In many cases, it’s all in your approach—how you visualize your audience when you write.

So, the next time you sit down to write, imagine the person you really want to convince. The words might not come easily, but the message will be better once it emerges.