One of my favorite business writing techniques is to ask “What if?” First, those two words draw me in like Vegas to a gambler. I immediately want to know how this imaginary scene will play out. Second, “what if” sets up scenarios that enliven the delivery of ho-hum facts and technical information.
In your business writing, you can literally use the words “what if,” or you can simply imply them. That’s what Joanie Smith, owner of East Bay Nature in Walnut Creek, did as she explored the fantastic situation “what if birds could talk?”
A few months back I was working outside in the hot sun. I was getting sweaty and tired, not paying much attention to anything other than getting the job done when I noticed a dark figure on the ground not further than 15 feet away.
Wondering why I didn’t notice it before, I moved a little closer. I was surprised to find that I was being watched by a turkey vulture. “Oh, hi,” I said nervously. “I don’t smell that bad, do I” “Not yet,” he said matter-of-factly. “Things are kind of slow today, so I thought I’d glide down for a look-see.”
“So,” I said, trying to keep the conversation going. “How do you like being called a turkey vulture?”
“DON’T like it,” he replied. “We’re not related to turkeys. Not related to hawks or eagles either…”
Thanks to “what if?” Joanie successfully grabs my attention and holds it as I learn more about turkey vultures than I ever thought I wanted to know. In fact, I’m spellbound. She tells this story so masterfully that I find I actually do want to know about turkey vulture diets, their regurgitated pellets, and even their feces!
To close, she gives the turkey vulture a whiff of something irresistible.
“Whoa! Wait a second. I’m getting something here.” He waved his wing feathers in front of his beak… “Well, gotta go. It’s not every day you get a chance to gorge on a putrid cow carcass. See ya!” He and his offspring took off. Then, he quickly flew back around and called, “Hey, care to join us for lunch?”
“No thanks,” I said, “I think I’ll have a salad.”
Do you see how “what if?” allowed Joanie great freedom to create and inform? Give it a try in your business writing when you’re facing a litany of facts that need a spark or when you want to grab your readers’ attention. What if you do something? What if you don’t do something? What if pigs fly?
How can you use “what if?” to engage your readers? What other creative business writing techniques do you use?
P.S. Stop by East Bay Nature at 1270A Newell Avenue, Walnut Creek, and sign up for Joanie’s newsletters. They’re always this creative.