I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Giving a wealth of choice…

I often pick up surveys for errors they make – it is unfortunately a common occurrence.

Today I spotted one that used perfect grammar and made perfect sense. The question listed the following options for someone’s gender:

  • male
  • female
  • intersex
  • other (please specify)
  • prefer not to say

For a question where I am used to see two possible answers (male and female), such a long list surprised me!

How much is too much?

Blank page over a list of bullet points

When talking to clients, I talk about writing from their points or from scratch – I don’t list writing blog posts, webcopy, disclosure documents, annual reports and letters. Fewer options make their decision easier.

How many choices make it hard to choose?

For a question with a clear answer (like how old are you or do you live in Australia), a lot of choices can work as you can skim across the options to find the relevant response.

But at other times, a large choice can hamper people actually making a decision.

I think there is a balance between not restricting people, offering them options, and overwhelming them with choice. Especially if some of the options are going to be chosen by a very limited number of people.

In business, too many choices can result in people being indecisive and not buying.

I know it can be hard to not offer something (what if my next potential client wants exactly the thing I don’t mention?) but considering if less is more can simplify and help your customers.

You can always add a note somewhere to the effect of ‘if what you want isn’t listed, give us a call’.

So how many options does your business offer?

Have you considered if it is too many, or how it could be simplified?

Choosing a side of the story

Every story has (at least) two sides. As a writer, you can choose which side you are going to tell, or focus on – and that choice can have consequences.

A business can focus on the message ‘our product has these great features’ and sell a few products.

Or that business could focus on ‘our product can help you these ways’ and make more sales.

You can choose what to communicate, even on a simple topic

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people gathered together in Melbourne in memory of Jill Meagher, and for a better world.

For over a week, many people have discussed Jill’s disappearance and the discovery of her body – in blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, and more, as well as in mainstream media.

People are upset at what’s happened. What happened was awful and the person responsible must be stopped. Jill and her family deserve that, and respect and sympathy. As do all the other people, and their families, who have been raped and murdered.

I read a related tweet yesterday which clearly showed two sides to the story around Jill Meagher. Notunimportant tweeted “So frustrated by talk of protecting women instead of ending violence.”

Protect or prevent?stop violence message is my choice

We have a choice as a society – a choice of what to focus on and a choice of how to act.

We can protect our women, children and elderly.

Or we can work at creating a safer environment where they don’t have to be protected (at least not from other people).

Do we add more police, more security cameras and stop the vulnerable walking alone?

Or we do teach our children to respect and never hurt others, that violence isn’t a good way of life, to “use their words”?

A month or so ago, the gun debate heated up again in the USA.

I was really pleased at that time to read how our anti-gun laws and the buy back scheme in 1996 have made a difference – the reduced guns in our country had a positive impact.

What we communicate influences our world

I don’t want to teach my daughters to be scared and never go places alone out of fear. I prefer to teach children (my own and those I interact with) care and respect, along with anti-violent messages.

If we focus on protecting women, what are we teaching our daughters? What are we teaching that group of men who don’t respect women, and who think hurting women is okay?

If we focus on a ‘we won’t accept violence’ message, how will that impact on our daughters? What will that teach our sons?

Which side of the story will you choose?

Genuine Choices

I have just been to my ip provider’s website to lodge a complaint after 2 days of emails not arriving. Their online complaint form has many fields (too many in my opinion but I’ll let that go!) and most are marked compulsory.

One questions, marked as compulsory to answer is “Would you like ABC to contact you? Yes Email Address”

In other words I have to say yes I want you to contact me in order to submit the form! Why bother asking if I have no choice but to agree to it?

So if you are preparing any sort of form or questionnaire, make sure you give people a choice rather than pretending to give a choice. If you are not going to give them a choice about something, be honest enough to say there is no choice – anything else just makes you look foolish and/or deceitful.

Use your words and questions wisely!

Giving people a choice of contact…

Through recent conversations, the topic of contact details has come up (again!) So let me start by asking – do you prefer to be contacted by phone or email, or something else? When leaving your details for a business to contact you, do you like giving lots of details or just choosing the ones that suit?

I have explained before that I prefer getting emails than phone calls as a general rule, so maybe I am a little biased!

However, I don’t like filling in forms on websites that ask for a lot of information because it wastes my time and gives them more than I think they need to know. For example, if I am asking you to email me something, why do you need my phone number and postcode?

My favourite collection forms are those that let you fill in phone or email or whatever, or at least ask what your preferred method of contact is. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who prefers a choice…

Along with choosing what contact details you give out, remember to consider what you ask for, too.

Get out of the stands

I just saw this fantastic video and felt I had to share it…

It is about leadership (relating to a Californian company, but that is not noticeable until the end) and how we can all make a difference to our world; but it is also about being a decent human being and ending each day satisfied with ourselves and our lives.

Thank you to Donna-Marie for sharing this in her blog for me to find, too.

I hope you find it as inspirational or encouraging as I did.

What’s in a name?

My daughter recently discovered that people didn’t live at the same time as dinosaurs. She was shocked and didn’t really believe it.

“But if people weren’t alive when dinosaurs were, then how can people know what they were called?” she asked.

It lead to a discussion of why we use names for things – even things that we don’t see in our everyday life. Names save us time, words and energy, as well as individualising us as people.

When writing, the choice of a name can be really important as names also set the scene. Names can give information about the person, such as gender, nationality, personality and age, and about the theme of the writing.

And it’s not just naming characters in fiction stories either. When I am writing something that includes examples, I take care to use names that imply a mix of people – for instance, using male and female names.

Word Constructions ~ for all your business writing needs