• Lucas North

How to write to reach more people

Photo: The Guardian

BUSINESSPEOPLE. YOUR CUSTOMERS KNOW what you do. After all, you promote what you do on a regular basis so they can decide whether they want to buy your products or services.

For example, if you’re a hairdresser, you let people know you cut, colour and curl hair. (Apologies to all hairdressers: I appreciate there’s a bit more to it than that.) You either have a salon or you may have a mobile set-up, whereby you provide your hairdressing services within your customers’ homes.

Why do you do what you do?

But, whatever kind of business you run, do you ever explain why you do it? It may not seem particularly important (because people buy your what not necessarily your why). But explaining why you decided to go into business in the first place can help create deeper connections between you and the customers you hope to attract.

There are a number of reasons I went into business. I like the relative freedom of being my own boss, making my own decisions about what I do and when I do it.

But there’s a bit more to it than that.

Poor bairns

I come from a very poor background (no, this isn’t meant to be a sob story: I don’t mind that I come from a poor background). I am one of seven children brought up by a single mother who couldn’t work full-time because, well, we gave her more than enough to do.

You can probably imagine what it was like being brought up on benefits in a big family. We lived in the less leafy areas of Newcastle (ie, rough council estates) and, even when we were young, we realised we were not well off. I remember being hungry because there wasn’t always enough to eat.

Like everyone’s life experience, mine shaped my personality. None of it made it inevitable that I would write for a living. But I do think my experience influences the way I write.

For those with simple tastes

For example, my default style is spare, which I think reflects my frugal background. I generally use quite simple words and short sentences for the same reason.

But I do want what I write to be read and enjoyed. So, rather than just providing the bare bones, I often add a bit of substance. Think of this as the rice that accompanies sentences that are as skinny as spare ribs. I’ll even add a juicy, literary morsel or two if I think the audience has the appetite for it. It’s about providing the right amount for the reader.

Food isn’t the only thing poor people lack. It’s also known they lack the wherewithal to get the best education. This is why the higher education regulator for England promises to halve the access gap at England’s most selective institutions in the next five years, as reported in the Guardian earlier this year.

Put simply, more people understand easy stuff

This, I strongly suspect, is why at least most of my writing aims to be as accessible as possible. It’s not just a matter of using short words and simple sentences, it’s about avoiding jargon, spelling out initialisms and explaining what things actually mean.

I completely appreciate my style of writing doesn’t suit everyone. Why should it? Nobody’s does.

Even poor people understand

But it is generally clear to most people, even those unfortunate oiks who live on council estates and don’t go to university. I aim to be as accessible as possible to as many as possible. This inclusiveness explains who I am and why I do what I do in the way I do it.

I hope explaining it helps businesspeople decide whether to work with me. Understandably, my style works better for those who want to reach broad audiences. It works less well for those whose focus is narrow or elite.

This is why explaining why you went into business can be as helpful as explaining what you do and what products and services you offer.

Please get in touch if you want any help defining your why or if you want your written communications to reach as many people as possible.

Thanks for reading.


For a really good explanation on this subject, I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, which inspired me to write this article.

#writing, #writer, #copywriting, #copywriter, ContentWriting, #editor, #editing, #SimonSinek, #StartWithWhy, #accessibility, #simplicity

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