Your Guide to Business Writing that Charms, Captivates and Converts By Mish Slade

How do you write well? It’s a difficult question to answer, whether attempting to do so in person or through a book. Despite my creative writing qualification and role as a copywriter, I wouldn’t even know where to begin in trying to teach somebody else how to write well. With an understanding of how difficult it is to effectively pass on this skill, I have a great respect and admiration for writers such as Mish Slade for even attempting to teach others to write. Other than Stephen King’s autobiographical ‘On Writing’, which dealt entirely with how to craft engaging fiction, my experience with books about the how to write is limited. Mish Slade’s book was the first I’d read dealing specifically with business writing.

From the first page to the last, Slade makes her intentions clear: she detests lazy and uninspired writing, and wants to eradicate it from the world. She firmly believes that every business should have its own identity and tone, and learning how to write well is the first step in accomplishing this.

One of the most impressive aspects of the book is just how prepared Slade is for the task she has set herself. The book is considerably strengthened by the sheer number of quality copy examples that are packed into each chapter. Slade does a fantastic job of showing and not just telling you the difference between good and bad writing. It’s all very well and good simply advising readers on how to attract new clients if they write with a strong personality rather than like a robot, but Slade goes one step further in perfectly illustrating this concept through the examples she includes in each chapter. In a lot of ways, simply showing these examples would be enough for Slade to demonstrate her point. However, she pushes her lessons even more by pinpointing how to utilise the same skills that her positive examples use. She meticulously highlights what the writer of the good example has done so well, and even gives you advice on how to apply to it to your own copy, whatever you might be writing about.

The book itself is well written (probably the very least you’d expect from somebody trying to teach how you how to write well) with a good balance of serious, grounded advice, and relaxed and at times irreverent humour. This blend makes the book an easy read, and at only 121 relatively short pages, you can tear through this in an hour or two. Thanks to the short chapters, it is easy to dip in and out of, and the indicative chapter names mean that it can be used as an easy reference point when writing on the fly if you’re struggling with a specific task.

While some of the content covered may be rather basic for those of us whose jobs already revolve around crafting compelling copy, there is something for everyone at any skill level to take away from ‘May I Have Your Attention Please?’ I have a propensity to overthink simple tasks and make my life more complicated. As a result, I often overwrite sentences that can be expressed with a third of the words that I’ve used. Mish Slade’s advice in Chapter 9 (Show Don’t Tell) gave me some great insight into how poor your writing can become if you try too hard to overexplain, or are too nervous to edit well.

At such a short read, it’s hard not to recommend ‘May I have Your Attention Please?’ However, to any marketeer with elements of copywriting in their role (particularly those of you who write to bring B2C concepts to life through promotional straplines, copy for point of sale, or even B2B articulation) or people in business development and sales roles who rely on effective and impactful copy as part of their sales pitches and bid documents — I really can’t recommend it enough.

In the world of marketing — particularly food marketing — the power of compelling copy is often overlooked thanks to the frequent use of colourful and attention-grabbing imagery. However, what we all need to appreciate — and what Mish Slade’s book does a brilliant job of reminding us of — is that copy is just as integral in the developmental process as anything else. If copy is poorly written or rushed, it will detract from the overall quality of your work. Tight budgets don’t always allow for specialist copywriters, and some people don’t always appreciate how impactful well-crafted copy can be and the value that it brings. ‘May I have Your Attention Please?’ is a brilliant place for anybody to start.