3 TIPS FOR BETTER WRITING
In the course of the years I’ve worked with hundreds of texts written by German speakers in English. Based on this hands-on experience with many typical mistakes, I’d like to give you 3 tips on how to write better texts in English.
Tip 1: Make it personal
1. Be your audience
Before you even start writing, think about your English audience:
- Who are they? What drives them?
- How can you add value to their lives with your text? How can you help them be more successful?
- How good is their English? Are you writing for native and non-native speakers?
2. Focus on the “you”
People, not things
Many English texts written by German speakers try to sound neutral and professional. However, in marketing and most other business communication, we work with people. So rather than using passive sentences and describing what “one” can do with your product, speak about the passionate people behind your business. The first step of doing this is to use “we”, “us” and “our” when speaking about your brand.
Address your audience
If you want to write really good marketing texts, however, try to move from “we” to “you”. What do I mean by that? Avoid talking too much about your brand, your products, and even your differentiators (USPs). Instead, speak about your customers, their problems, solutions and benefits. Draw a vision of who they will be after they purchase your products or services.
There is a magic word that will help you do this: “you”. This little word is perfect for writing marketing copy because it directly addresses your audience. It also has one massive advantage over German. “You” stands for “du”, “Sie” and “man”, all in one.
Tip 2: Create emotions
German is a lot less emotional than English. Just think about the different use of the words “love” and “lieben”. While American love pretty much everything, from a meal to an outfit and a product, Germans and Austrians might not get so excited and say something along the lines of, “das passt” (it’s alright) or “das ist nicht schlecht” (not bad).
If you understate too much in your English marketing, you will simply not be seen or heard in the world wide web. And even if your audience does find and read your texts, they might wonder if your products are any good. After all, you don’t even seem to be very enthusiastic about them.
Tip 3: Keep it simple
Have a clear message
Germans and Austrians are known to be excellent engineers. They like to be very specific. German sentences can get really long and include numerous nuances and side comments. English sentences are shorter. And they are getting shorter every year!
Most of the texts I’ve worked with were trying to communicate many (important) details. What’s wrong with that? If your audience reads too many details, they might miss your main message. They might just randomly choose some piece of information from the great big pot of information you’ve provided. Make sure your audience gets one clear message from your writing, like: This is why our product will make your life better.
Keeping it simple is hard. It takes much longer to write a short, clear text than to write a long one. Try to be really tough on yourself. Keep asking: Is this information relevant? Your English writing may feel like a compromise to you, but you will save your audience a lot of time and effort if your texts are simple and crystal clear.
Which information does your audience need?
In his book Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller uses this terrific analogy of a hitchhiker:
“Imagine your customer is a hitchhiker. You pull over to give him a ride, and the one burning question on his mind is simply: Where are you going? But as he approaches, you roll down the window and start talking about your mission statement, or how your grandfather built this car with his bare hands, or how your road-trip playlist is all 1980s alternative.”
Too many websites, company pitches and emails start with the company history or some information about your brand that is not relevant at this point. Your audience doesn’t have the time to read all that and will turn away if you don’t capture them in the very first sentences.
How good are your texts?
Contact me for a writing workshop if you’d like to:
- write effective marketing copy in English
- produce texts that have a clear message
- make your texts more emotional and easy to read
ALEXANDRA GINA EDWARDS
I’m an American Business Communication trainer, English coach, translator and copywriter based near Innsbruck, Austria. I love working with business executives and their teams on their communication challenges. My goal is to help you and your business thrive by communicating successfully in English.