Time To Slow Down

It’s a nasty ailment.

It’s deceptive, too. The worse you get it, the less you think you have it.

Then one day, you wake up and realize what’s happening.

The ailment? Working too fast. In my particular case, writing too fast. Not these columns. Where I have the bug the worst is in writing emails for web sites. Announcement emails, sales emails, customer service emails.

There’s a seductive appeal to writing at speed. It fits so nicely with the culture of the Internet and ecommerce. Email is such a ‘light,’ throw-away medium.

Easy come, easy go.

Trouble is, when emails from your site are written quickly, without sufficient thought and care, you miss a great opportunity.

That opportunity may be to make a sale, start a relationship, or build some loyalty.

In addition, poorly written email leaves a nasty residue in the reader’s mind. Readers may not analyze your writing, line by line, but they’ll get a sense of a communication that is hurried and not very clear.

And hey, if you don’t care about what you’re writing, why should they?

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean.

First, the ‘bad’ example – with names changed to protect the writer, who may have been having a bad day, anyway. These are the first two paragraphs:

    “Hello, sorry it’s been so long since you received your last issue of the ‘Anonymous’ Monthly Newsletter.

    Many things are new at ‘Anonymous’ Mall, and many things remain the same. The biggest change here is me, Cindy who many of you have come to know has chosen me to carry on the day to day operations of ‘ Anonymous’ allowing her to turn her attention to other matters. For this opportunity I am most appreciative.”

The email goes on to try to sell me something. But it never will. The writing and grammar are poor, and it just does nothing for me.

And now for the good example.

These are the first two paragraphs from an email that was sent to me by a reader and friend. Thanks, Laura.

    Dear Laura,

    “I love you.” “I miss you.” “Thank you.” “Happy Birthday.” “Congratulations!” No matter what you want to express, fresh flowers will make your message unforgettable. That’s why I’m very happy to bring you a better way to send flowers: MARTHASFLOWERS.

I think this is a wonderful opening paragraph – and the email just gets better and better after that.

Sure, there may have been a big difference in the writing skills of the two people who wrote these emails. But my guess is the biggest difference was the time spent on them.

How can I tell?

Because of my own nasty ailment. When I read this opening paragraph, I’m reminded of how long I used to spend writing just a few paragraphs.

In the old days of print writing, the timelines and deadlines were so much longer. We had more time in which to write.

I’d spend days writing and rewriting just a few paragraphs for an advertisement. I had a pride in the craft of writing and rewriting until every word in every line was just the way I wanted it.

Do I apply that kind of time and discipline to writing emails for web sites? I am sorry to say, No.

That’s a bad thing. And I’m going to have to change that.

But my guess is that I’m not alone in being seduced by the need for speed.

Trouble is, it’s not about vanity. It’s about writing to sell and get results. Better writing sells more.

So, unless I am alone with my ailment, it’s time we all spent a little more time to get things right.

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