One Crucial Tip to Make Your Business Writing Stand Out: Get Active

Why is so much business copy so dull?

Long sentences, jargon and clichés don’t help make it engaging. But it’s passive language which blights business writing.

Business Writing Stand Out

Which of these sentences reads better to you?

“The brochure was drafted by the marketing department and was sent out by the fulfilment house.”


“The marketing department drafted the brochure and the fulfilment house sent it out.”

The first sentence uses the “passive voice”. The second the “active voice”.  Businesses, especially big corporates, love passive language.

With the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward. The subject does the work and the verb moves the sentence along.

With the passive voice, the subject of the sentence doesn’t do anything.  Some other “agent” or something unnamed does the work. The result is weak writing.

Perhaps this is why Corporates like passive so much. It masks responsibility for example:

  • “Sorry but your cheque wasn’t processed on time by the accounts team,” sounds like buck passing.
  • “Sorry the accounts team didn’t process your cheque on time,” is better.
  • “Sorry we didn’t process your cheque on time,” admits responsibility and is the best of the lot.

So the one tip to make your business copy stand out is to get active. That’s all.

When I was a Marketing Director for a big corporate my policy was zero tolerance for passive language. People used to cringe when I wielded my red pen. But eventually passive became active. Copy went from tiresome to engaging. Dull to bright.

Here’s another example:

Passive: “There is a wealth of expertise shown by financial advisers when talking to their clients.”

Active: “Financial Advisers show a wealth of expertise when talking to their clients.”

And another example:

Passive: “The compliance computer based training must be completed each year by all members of staff”.

Active: “Each year, all members of staff must complete the compliance computer based training.”

You don’t have to seek out and cut all passive language. But in business copy, where most writing is passive, someone who takes time to get active will stand out from the pack.

If you need help with your business copy, or would like more tips like this, please get in touch.

A Question for you: What’s your best example of awful passive language? Please share your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.

Sam Chivers on How to Master Web Analytics for Your Website – MPAF46

Your website might only be a few pages describing your business and what you do.

Or it could be a larger site with that necessary information plus articles, videos and tools.

Either way, knowing your audience and what they want is a critical success factor for any website.

The best way to know your audience is through your traffic stats. You can buy packages or use Google Analytics. If you’re not and expert it can be difficult to get started and to know what to look for once you have analytics in place.

My guest today provides a master class in how to set up and interpret web analytics.

Hear Sam describe how to use Google Analytics and learn what is working for your customers and how you can amend your content accordingly.

Listen to Sam explain “bounce rates” and other web jargon term and how they can help you grow your audience and ultimately your business.

That’s all right here in episode 46 of the Marketing Protection and Finance Podcast.

Sam Chivers MPAF46

Who is Sam Chivers?

Sam is Head of Communication and Information at Financial Advice Network Ltd, a subsidiary of the Mutual, Shepherds Friendly Society which has been around since 1826

He’s also a qualified American Football coach having played and coached for the Edinburgh University team, and the Dundee Hurricanes.

Sam’s links:

Sam’s Favourite Books:

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Protection Insurance: 3 Steps to Fighting Against Confirmation Bias

It won’t happen to me. It’s too expensive. Life insurance companies will try to wriggle out of paying.

3 reasons repeatedly given by people why they won’t buy protection insurance (life cover, critical illness or income protection).

Protection Insurance

You’d think that with all the digital communications technology available, we’d be able to change these views. But they’ve endured for years despite evidence to the contrary.

Take the assertion that life companies will try anything they can to avoid paying out. Each year most companies publish their claims statistics showing this is clearly not true. Payouts are in the high 90 percents.

But look at the results of some recent research published by British Friendly.

They found only 2 per cent believe we pay income protection claims more than 90% of the time. And nearly 1 in 5 say we pay claims less than 20 per cent of the time.

Almost half believe we deliberately try not to pay them.

Why such a wide gap between what the public thinks and reality?

A Phenomenon called “Confirmation Bias”.

People seek information that confirms their view-point. If they believe that life companies deliberately wriggle out of paying, they can easily find articles, news reports and videos confirming they are correct. If they find any information proving they are wrong they’ll subconsciously ignore it.

The truth of the matter is there aren’t enough positive stories out there to balance out, or even override the negative.

Fighting against confirmation bias should be our number one marketing communications goal.

Here are three things we must do:

Stop believing the annual publication of claims stats, laudable as it is, reaches anything other than a few people, probably clients of advisers, outside of the industry. The public do not read Cover, FT Adviser or Money Marketing.

Start flooding the Internet with positive stories about paid claims and the families whose finances we’ve saved. The 7 Families campaign has the right idea, but 7 stories do not constitute a flood. Every provider and adviser must put out content, articles, videos, audio,  and interviews all building on the statistical truth that we pay claims with emotional stories showing the results.

Start using social media to drive Internet traffic to these positive stories so eventually, and it will take a long time, when people go looking for information to confirm their bias, they’ll find it harder to ignore the truth.

Digital communications technology means we can do this cheaply and efficiently. Come on. Let’s do it!

A question for you: What content would you like to see out there to help improve customer views about protection insurance? Click to share your thoughts on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. And Google+ if you use it!