I have come to believe more and more that our brains interpret ALL writing as a story because human beings just seem to be hardwired for storytelling. That’s why I love this quote from Miriam Rukeyser:
“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”
Applying storytelling techniques in business communications
Because story forms such a fundamental part of who we are as human beings, understanding and applying the principles of storytelling in our business communications will help us create much more powerful websites, articles, white papers, press releases and more.
The characteristics of successful written communications
When a written communication succeeds, it is because it successfully follows the story outline: a beginning that connects emotionally with its audience, a middle that follows logically from one point (scene) to another, and an ending that concludes the story satisfactorily.
In addition to story structure, successful written communications focus on a particular audience, use concrete nouns and active verbs to paint pictures in the minds of their readers, and create rhythm and harmony using such elements as sentence length, punctuation and white space.
Above all, successful written communications make readers care. How do they do this? By being human. By clearly demonstrating that a real person is behind the communication. By incorporating emotions. By telling a story.
The characteristics of unsuccessful written communications
Written communications that do NOT succeed share similar traits. First, their organization is often poor. Ideas follow each other in random order–as the writer thinks of them–rather than in a coherent step-by-step, scene-by-scene order. Second, the target audience is unclear. This means that the communications either fail to provide the information the audience needs to make a decision/understand the discussion/take the desired action or that they provide too much information!
Another trait of poorly written communications is that they have too many long, convoluted sentences, too many passive constructions, and too little white space. They also use too many unnecessary words and phrases that obscure meaning. Instead of singing, they thud.
Finally, poorly written communications lack emotion. The writer stays at such an arm’s length from the reader that the reader fails to connect with the writer as a fellow human being. As a result, the reader not only fails to take the desired action, but soon forgets the message–and the writer–all together!
The moral of the story
The moral of this story is that storytelling is powerful. The better we understand its requirements, the more successful our written communications will be.
I help businesses and nongovernmental organizations reach more people with their solutions. Click here to learn more about my freelance writing, editing and web design services.