How Fiction Can Inspire Great Business Writing

Photo of a young women looking at a book.
Yes, there’s a place in business writing for fictional stories. (Photo: Yulia Grogoryeva)

Many people think business writing shouldn’t include anything fake, but that’s not true.

There’s nothing wrong with incorporating fictional stories into business writing. In fact, people often respond very well to stories.

The key is to not be misleading—you shouldn’t use fictional stories and say they’re real. As long as you’re being honest and transparent, it’s fine.

A great example of this is a famous sales letter from the Wall Street Journal. It tells the story of two young men who graduated from the same college and went to work at the same company. They started their careers with similar talents and ambitions, but 25 years later one was a manager and the other was the president of the company.

The letter then asks what made the difference between these two men over the course of their careers. The answer given is that “knowledge is power” and that the Wall Street Journal gave one of them the edge.

It’s a blatant pitch for the Wall Street Journal, and anyone who read it could clearly see that. But that didn’t bother too many readers—the fact that it starts out with a story that motivates the pitch is why it works so well.

This sales letter was so successful that it ran for almost three decades and brought in around $2 billion worth of subscriptions.

Never underestimate the power of a great story to captivate readers and compel them to take action.

Just keep the following tips in mind when you incorporate fiction into your business writing.

Grab Your Readers’ Attention

People are naturally curious, so your story should be able to pique their curiosity and hold their attention.

Like a great comedian, you don’t want to give away the punchline too soon. Pull the reader along for a bit, where appropriate.

In most cases, you should also use natural, conversational language when telling a story; otherwise you might lose your readers’ interest from the start.

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Practice Telling the Story Out Loud

Stories go back to way before the written word, so it’s not surprising that people all over the world still enjoy hearing (and telling) a great story.

Storytelling is universal. It’s hard for someone, regardless of age or background, to resist hearing an interesting tale.

So use this to your advantage. Don’t just write the story down and forget about it—tell it to someone.

Telling your story out loud will also help you determine if any parts need work. If something doesn’t sound right, you’ll be able to figure out why.

For example, maybe some parts will be unclear or inconsistent, or maybe there’s too much detail in certain places. Also, by telling the story out loud to friends or colleagues, you’ll probably be able to tell which parts resonate with them the most.

Don’t Mislead

As I mentioned earlier, don’t mislead your readers and tell them it’s a real story.

In business writing, the best stories are usually the ones that people can intuitively tell are fictional, but at the same time the stories are realistic enough to illustrate your point.

Incorporating some fiction into your business writing can help improve your results for blog posts, sales letters, and much more. Contact Super Copy Editors today to learn more about our copy editing services.

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Dave Baker

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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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