The Power of Storytelling (Yes, Even in Business Writing)

Photo of man on a mountaintop bathed in light, and the man is looking at a laptop, possibly working on an amazing story.
Take your audience on an adventure through your writing. (Photo: Michal Bednarek)

Storytelling is a primal method of communication. It goes back much further than writing—ever since humans developed the spoken language, we’ve been telling stories to entertain, educate, and persuade one another.

No wonder all of us, children and adults alike, love a good story.

Writing stories isn’t just for novelists and screenwriters. One of the biggest advantages of storytelling is its versatility—you can use it for training materials, commercials, sales presentations, and much more.

Here are some tips for incorporating stories into whatever you’re writing.

Plan Your Story

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want to say?
  • What will the takeaway message be?
  • How do I want the reader to react to the story?

You can make adjustments as you write, but it’s important to know where you’re heading before you start. One of the best ways to do this is by writing a short outline.

Use Natural Language

A good story is believable and easy to understand, so write in a natural style. Don’t use complicated words when short, simple ones will do.

Some people mistakenly think this will make them look uneducated or unintelligent. But that’s the wrong mindset. Telling a good story is not about satisfying the writer’s ego—it’s about connecting with the reader.

Another reason it’s important to use natural language is that most stories have dialogue. And the dialogue should be realistic based on the characters.

One way to check that you’ve used natural language is to read your story out loud. You’ll be able to tell when it hits your ears. Another option: Read it to others and ask if it sounds natural to them.

Don’t Miss: Examples of Great Storytelling in Business Writing

Don’t Forget the Human Element

You want readers to connect with your story on an emotional level. They should be able to empathize with the characters. Better yet—get them to see themselves in the story.

Accomplish this by including dialogue, visual descriptions, and the characters’ actions. Readers shouldn’t feel like you’re simply telling a story—they should feel like they’re experiencing it themselves.

Satisfy the Reader’s Curiosity

In order for a story to be compelling, there must be a challenge or conflict. Eventually, you’ll also need a resolution, which will satisfy the reader’s curiosity.

Finally—and I hope I’m not throwing too much at you here—there should be some suspense. You don’t want to give away the resolution too soon after you’ve revealed the conflict.

The reader’s emotional state should change as the story unfolds. You don’t want to be too predictable.

Don’t Miss: 8 Master Storylines for Business Storytellers

Use a Common Story Type

Whew. That’s a lot of ground to cover!

The good news: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Many successful stories follow a common structure, such as the rags-to-riches story or the coming-of-age tale. By understanding the general structure of successful stories, you can get more clarity about how to tell your own story.

For example, many great stories fall into the category of the hero’s journey. The main character goes on an adventure, overcomes a challenge, and is transformed in the process. Of course, the details of every story are different, but the general formula is the same.

Use these ideas to incorporate more storytelling into your business writing—and your readers will live happily ever after.

The end.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than two decades of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes after Hurricane Katrina. Today, I have put together a hand-picked team of copy editors, and we especially love working with ad agencies, marketing departments, and education companies to make their text as polished as possible. Learn more here.

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