Vague vs. Clear in Business Blog Writing

question marksShort vs. long – that is the question.  At least that’s what Indianapolis bloggers might conclude from my Say It For You business blog post earlier this week.  There’s more to that question, of course, and lots more to the answers, as Brandon Royal demonstrates in The Little Red Writing Book.

Royal warns writers that “Vague language weakens your writing, because it forces the reader to guess at what you mean.”  “Choose specific, descriptive words for more forceful writing," he advises. Sometimes, the author adds, “to be specific and concrete, you will have to use more words than usual.  That’s OK.”

I particularly liked the examples Royal culled from interviews with job candidates. (Besides doing corporate blog writing and offering corporate blogging training, I serve as Executive Career Mentor at Butler College of Business, and our program trains students in interviewing skills.) A common job seeker’s mistake, he points out, is using a “shopping list” of traits, rather than using concrete examples of strong points:

Candidate:  “Not only did I develop important operational skills in running a business, I experienced the challenges entrepreneurs face on a daily basis.” 
Question left in interviewer’s mind:  What challenges are those?

Candidate: “Growing up in both the East and the West, I have experienced both Asian and Western points of view.”
Question left in interviewer’s mind: What are those Asian and Western points of view?

Candidate: “I am energetic, loyal, creative, responsible, and ambitious.”
Questions left in interviewer’s mind: Really?  How can I tell?  Why don’t you support a few of those traits with concrete examples?

Anyone involved in business blog writing should try some of the writing exercises Royal offers in the book, to practice replacing vague language with words that are specific and concrete.

Vague: “Firms should advertise to increase sales.”
Specific: “Billboard advertising is low cost and has been shown to increase sales as much as 10% in a given region.”

Personalizing examples makes them even more memorable and specific, a piece of advice that can be applied to any SEO marketing blog.  Back to the short-vs.-long question, stories and testimonials take up more space, but make for far more impact than general marketing claims.

Short vs. long, clear vs. vague, specific vs. general – who ever said this blog content writing thing would be a breeze?

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