Literary techniques, also known as literary devices, can offer some neat tricks to boost business writing. That means your teachers were right – you can actually use the study of Shakespeare in the real world!
First off: good use of synonyms
A thesaurus can be a copywriter’s best friend. Repetition (unless it serves a specific purpose) should be avoided whenever possible. So, checking on some synonyms can really help a text flow. However, when choosing a word, it is wise to think further than its denotative meaning (the dictionary definition) and consider its connotative meaning (or associations).
For example, a machine can be ‘user-friendly’ or ‘foolproof’. Both of these words essentially mean the same thing. But the connotations are different as the first is a neutral-positive way to make the point, whereas the second one could be considered insulting towards the user.
A few more literary devices to spice up your business writing
1. Asyndeton means leaving out or omitting conjunctions (connecting words, like ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘but’, etc.) in order to emphasize a point though impact. For example, “we stand for quality and sustainability, for a better future” can be shortened to: “we stand for quality, sustainability – a better future.” By leaving out the conjunctions, the sentence has more oomph or dramatic effect.
2. Another device is hypophora. This is commonly employed, often unknowingly, in B2B writing and advertising. Simply put, here you pose a question and then immediately answer it. For example, “how can you reduce your environmental footprint? XYZ software can make invoicing paper-free…”
3. Procatalepsis, on the other hand, assumes the reader will not be receptive to something, so states this outright and then explains why that shouldn’t be the case. For example, “who needs the stress of upgrading their system? By thinking in the long-term, you can save future hassle by avoiding equipment obsolescence.”
You might never (hopefully) say any of these terms out loud. But they certainly can be very useful devices for taking your writing to the next level. Find out how to turn your words into a great story.