Business writing basics: one thing at a time

Most of us have grown up with someone, somewhere shouting to us “one thing at a time,” and most of us have experienced the frustration and ineffectiveness of trying to do several things at once.

Yes, there are people who can be simultaneously multi-skilled and emerge having completed 24 tasks in one sweep and still smile. Mothers of young children are good examples of this. Some people in business are good at this too. Think administrators, accountants, other folks with brilliant brains.

However when it comes to communicating business messages – assuming we want them to work across all platforms – we can’t afford to rely on our audiences all having the lightning-fast, multi-faceted presence of mind that the mothers of young children or other whizzy multi-taskers do.

Business/marketing promotion is about focus, not fracas

Many organizations feel that an expensive piece of business/marketing/written communication should be treated like a trip to the supermarket, with as much as possible loaded on to the shopping trolley/cart to make the whole exercise worthwhile. Sadly this just doesn’t work (but you try explaining that to some accountants and financial executives.)

However if you’re in a position to make the decision on what gets communicated, whatever you do, keep it simple.

One production of a corporate video does not work as a marketing video, training video, induction video, recruitment video and customer service video all at the same time. What happens if you attempt such a stunt is that all audience groups are convinced of just this – that your organization is dull, insipid and doesn’t care enough to talk to them directly.

Current technology available both for paper-based and screen-based communication is such that creating different versions of a message is nowhere nearly as costly as it was in the past. This allows you to tailor messages appropriately without having to re-invent the wheel each time.

Always focusing on your desired outcome helps to keep you on the straight and narrow not only in the development of your mission brief, but also in ensuring you don’t start giving birth to its brothers, sisters and cousins.

No matter how complex your brief turns out to be and how many qualifying issues it takes to support the desired outcome, as long as your message isn’t confused by messages about other issues it will emerge in a strong and efficient way.

And how does this work through to smaller businesses?

A press ad for your fast pizza delivery service can be qualified by information about flavours available, low prices, extra toppings, free soft drinks for orders worth over so much, and any other add-on you want – they all help support the main message.

However all that will be significantly diluted if you slot in stuff about the romantic candlelit dinners for two at your adjacent restaurant, your take-away burgers and hot dogs, and your new espresso and latte bar.

In this era of extreme niches in marketing, branding and pretty well everything else, the old-fashioned notion of “one thing at a time” increasingly is making us focus on what – perhaps – we should have been focusing on all along.

Such is the enigma of business/marketing, and the writing we do to disseminate its messages.

Do I hear someone whisper “KISS … Keep It Simple, Stupid?” Yes, I thought so…

Keep your writing simple – and successful:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. says:

    Business writing basics: one thing at a time…

    Communicating business messages requires a strong focus on one main message. In this article pro bizwriter Suzan St Maur shows how a single-minded focus on topic works…