At school, we’re constantly taught not to plagiarize, right? Don’t steal someone else’s ideas. Don’t copy words from another article or book. Only use original arguments. And so on… Well, years ago I kinda came to realize that work is different. In many roles, whether we realize it or not, writing is a big part of the job. You might not necessarily be drafting papers or major reports always, but almost everyone in a corporate job has to produce updates, and of course, endless emails.
Now obviously you can’t copy someone else’s work, but you can, and should, be very aligned to the company in both how you write and what you write. Let me explain each in turn…
In terms of how you write, study your corporate
propoganda reports. You’ll find all kinds of patterns where certain things are consistent, e.g.
- Do they always refer to the company in the third person e.g. “ABC company is committed to…” versus “At ABC company, we are committed to…”?
- What words do they stick to using? Lots of companies, for example, will say sustainability instead of CSR, they’ll say employee engagement instead of satisfaction, or they’ll use one of their own acronyms, which new joiners always find super annoying
- Do all papers or reports start in the same way, with the context, or the goals set from last year, or with analysis of the metrics?
So whatever the answers, before you write anything that’s at all important, take the time to study what’s been said before. Once after I’d been writing corporate stuff for years, I still decided to pay especially close attention to what had already gone out around a specific topic I needed to write about. I was drafting a message from the company’s CEO, and after reading, he said “That’s actually quite good”. If you knew him, you’d get that this was as good as it gets in terms of praise or recognition! Usually stuff came back with a million changes so that it was aligned to his style and tone. One time, he asked ‘Who wrote this?” about a press release that had a distinctively different style. I felt for the (really senior) guy who was a communications ‘expert’ who drafted the document. He was good at his profession but as a newcomer in the organization, failed to pick up on its particular style and approach.
What have you noticed about the language and style of your company? Did it take you a while to learn the ‘language’? Post a comment below and share what you figured out.
Tags: First job