Our aim is to help you write clearly, consistently – and creatively – in a way that is relevant to your audience (whoever they may be).
The following topics will be addressed:
First, a few words about words…
DSM is a global company that communicates in US English. Although many of our people are not native speakers, much of the guidance and advice that follows in this guide is applicable to all languages. Why? Because words remain our primary way of communicating, both as a company and as a species. It’s therefore essential that we choose the right ones - and put them in the correct order.
In fact, you could say that written communication is a transaction. In return for giving our audience information, we hope to receive their interest, engagement and advocacy in return: and to do that, our writing first needs to be relevant.
The first and most important job of any writer is to ensure that your intended audience reads what you have written (otherwise, why bother?). Establishing relevance with the reader means understanding them and their needs – and then balancing this against our own needs and requirements at DSM.
This is easier than you might think, because every one of us is a reader. Just like the people we’re trying to reach we are curious; we like to be entertained; and if we have the time… we will read it. So, before you write anything, establish:
Being relevant also means being clear and compelling in the way we tell our story.
Start by organizing your thoughts ideas in bullet points that together form a cohesive storyline.
This does not mean that you need to start every story at the beginning. Instead, start with the most important or relevant point.
Imagine DSM is opening a new state-of-the-art science center. It will include 12 labs and 50 staff working on creating next-generation biobased materials for customers in a variety of industries.
It’s clear. But is it compelling? How might we order this information differently? How about this:
Let’s be real: people don’t read like they used to. They don’t have the time to read large volumes of text, and even if they do, their patience is limited.
There is a huge temptation – especially for a science company like DSM – to tell everyone, everything. The problem is that by emphasizing everything it’s easy to dilute the message. Or, to use the old advertising industry mantra: throw someone a ball (ok, maybe two) and they’ll catch them. Throw them six balls and they’ll most likely drop them all.
So, keep it concise.
Improved nutrition solution = better nutrition
Even within the specialized, niche markets where DSM tends to operate, we should never assume that everyone understands the technical and scientific nuances of what we are saying.
The simple rule here: Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
On the other hand, there are certain facts of life that it’s safe to say our readers will know.
Is there a more relevant or contextualized way of saying this? If not, don’t say it (and keep it brief).
Try writing your important statements and messages using active language. Here’s an example from DSM competitor, Kerry – along with how it could be improved.
We could improve this important message even further by removing the long clause and creating two shorter sentences (tip: read it out loud and if you run out of breath…the sentence is too long).
The points we’ve covered so far are even more relevant to the digital medium – whether you’re writing a web site, an email (newsletter) or social media.
People tend to ‘scan’ words online rather than read them in detail; so here are a few key things to remember:
Web site content presents an interesting challenge because of search engines. One important way of getting our web sites (and their individual pages) found by users is to use relevant and high-ranking keywords and phrases that we know users are inputting into search engines.
The good news is that because DSM works in niche and specialized markets, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is far easier for us than if we were selling mass-market consumer goods like shoes or cars. So here are some tips:
We’ve covered the basics of good written communication. So how do these apply specifically to DSM and our brand?
The same three personality traits that inform our wider brand identity also drive our writing style and tone of voice.
Even for professionals, writing in a consistent tone of voice can be difficult. So, let’s make it easy.
|Courageous: not being afraid to make statements that get people thinking and help us stand out from the crowd.||Example
If not us, who? If not now, when? (DSM Animal Health & Nutrition).
|Caring: tapping into the emotional side of our brand to write in a human way.||Example
With you when it matters (Dyneema®)
|Collaborative: broadening our story beyond DSM to include the wider world we serve (and make brighter!) – not least our customers.||Example
Join us to see how we can bring exciting new dairy to the table together? (DSM and CSK)
Consistency is important. But it should never stop us being creative. So when it comes to writing, what does ‘being creative’ really mean?
Creativity goes beyond being clear and relevant. It’s about creating stopping power; grabbing attention; making readers think, question – and hopefully act and respond.
Ultimately, we want our brand and its voice to be differentiated from all the other noise out there – and the key is to find fresh and alternative ways of getting our message across.
Here are just a few ways to stimulate your creativity:
The fine details of writing in any language are obvious (especially English). There are many rules - and many exceptions to those rules. Our opinion is that getting the basics right – from both a communications and brand perspective – is more important than the technicalities.
However, if you do have a specific technical question, we urge you to consult one of the many reference documents available on usage and grammar.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading sources on English language usage.
The Associated Press style guide is useful for American English spelling (although DSM does not follow all American grammar and usage rules).
Roget’s Thesauraus is the place for finding alternative English words (synonyms).
Even better, find a native speaker and consult them.
In the meantime, happy writing!
Here you’ll find the correct house style for all the terms we use in our financial brand communications, including Dutch translations and various words and phrases we should always avoid using. For more information download our Financial Terminology Guide.