The myth of ‘sounding professional’ in B2B writing

“I struggle to sound professional when I’m writing for work.”

It’s not an unusual comment from people who aren’t in communications but might have to write stories for internal newsletters, intranet or even external stories.

So how do you sound professional when writing for work? I would counter that question with: What does professional B2B writing look and sound like?

Close up of a man in a business suit straightening his tie. Representative of the false image of a professional 'look'.
Photo by Ruthson Zimmerman on Unsplash

There is a common misconception that sounding ‘professional’ in B2B writing means using a different language to what you would use in a normal conversation.

That sounding professional means using long, fancy words, jargon and ‘corporate speak’.

And following certain rules that were drilled in when studying English at school, such as starting a sentence with ‘and’ as I’ve just done.

But that’s like saying that you aren’t professional unless you wear a suit and work in an office.

It’s stuff and nonsense. Being professional is about being skilled at what you do first and foremost.

The key purpose of B2B writing

And, just as labelling a certain way of dressing as professional misses the point, so does the idea that you have to write in a certain way.

Yes, correct English and spelling are a good idea, but using words and phrases you wouldn’t use when talking to people ignores the key purpose of B2B writing: To communicate.

If you want to communicate a piece of news, pass on information or get people to do something, you need to write in a way that is clear, concise and engages your audience.

And the easiest way to do that is to use familiar words and phrases – the language you would use in conversation.

Writing something for internal comms, imagine you are talking to your team face to face. Or, if you are writing an article aimed at existing and potential clients, imagine you are having a conversation over a coffee or lunch.

For example, you wouldn’t say to someone, ‘the meeting commences at 11’. It sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?

What you would actually say is ‘the meeting starts at 11’.

Some other examples, when in conversation would you say: utilise or facilitate? You most likely wouldn’t; you’d say ‘use’ or ‘help’.

And when you speak, you start sentences with ‘and’ and ‘but’ – which is fine in B2B writing.

Easy to read and understand

Writing using words that are natural to your everyday speech and your audience is much easier to read. And it’s much easier to write because you aren’t trying to think of the fancy word.

Natural language sounds human, making it far more engaging than something riddled with corporate speak and words you would never say in conversations.

So-called ‘professional’ language gets in the way of clear communication. It isn’t dumbing down to use plain and simple language; it’s a clever way to write and communicate.

What word that gets used to sound ‘professional’ would you like to see purged from B2B content?

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