“Nearly every company relies on the written word to woo customers. So why is most business writing so numbingly banal?” That’s what Jason Fried says in his opening article Why Is Business Writing So Bad?, in Inc. magazine.
Jason recently wrote a book Rework using his positive experience as founder of a successful business, 37signals. He says he’s small, even though his software is used around the world by over 3 million people. His online tools: Basecamp – a project management tool generates millions in profit each year; Highrise – a customer relations management tool is used by thousands of small businesses to manage their customer relations; Campfire and Backpack are other tools they offer. A 16 people firm, and as he says “frugal and profitable.”
What I like about this book is how they take a business a part, strip it bare, and then rebuild and show you how and why it works. But what does this great little book have to do with business writing? He is successful because he is unique, different, and playing by the rules of uniqueness. And that’s what needs to happen in business writing. If we write like everyone else, it says “we are like everyone else.” So he pulls examples and proves his point.
The quality of the writing on sites like Woot’s, Saddleback Leather’s, and Polyface’s gives me the chills. It’s not how they look; it’s how they read. These are businesses that care about what they say and how they say it. They don’t write to fill up space on a page. They write to fill up your head. There is nothing inherently interesting about liquidators, leather, or farmers. They can make themselves boring, or they can make themselves interesting. Words do that job. Woot, Saddleback, and Polyface have all chosen to be interesting and engaging. They don’t hide behind jargon. They aren’t insecure. They aren’t afraid to tell you who they are.