Tamsin Constable

Rubbish writing causes unseen damage

Your writing has a direct impact on those who read it. Never ever underestimate how much good it can do – or how much damage. Think about the impression you give and how writing reflects on you (your company, organisation etc). If you don’t, you’ll lose out – often without even realising it.

Last week I wanted to get rid of a rocking chair. It’s only a cheap old thing, but I’ve nursed two babies in it, children have played in it, and it was given to us. I want to feel good about giving it away.  (Read: I want to give my custom to someone I’ll be pleased to do business with.)

So I created an ‘Offer’ post on my local Freecycle Network, as I’ve done several times before. My goal: to get rid of the chair quickly, ideally to someone who would be vaguely grateful, reliable and polite.

Here are the queries I got back:

hi interested in your rocker

Hi has the rocking chair gone i would appreciate it if not

Hey! Is the rocking chair still available? If so please call me or respond to message. Thanks!

Hi, I’m really interested in your item. Is it still available? Thank You.

hi just to see if the chair has gone??

Hi would love this for my little girl in our new house if still available.

Hi, I would love this chair. It would be a fantastic addition to a loving home.
Could collect any day this week after 3. Feel free to call me on xxxx xxx if your in a rush. Regards,

hiya tamsin do you still have the chair available. hope to hear from you soon .thanks

This world be great for me to use as a nursing chair. I can collect if it is still available. Thanks

Hi there I have been after a rocking chair for sometime!  Everytime they come available on here I always miss them!  Is yours still available?  I would love to take this off your hands! Many thanks

Hey there, I am quite interested in your freecycle ad for the rocking chair, the thing is: I am thinking of putting it into a room where I don’t have a lot of space so I was wondering how big the chair is. Could you please send me a pic via e-mail, if it’s not much hassle to you? Also because I have a small car (Ford Fiesta) in case I decide to come and collect it I also leave you my mobile

Hi just wondering if you still have the rocking chair, thank you

I just  wondered what colour the wood is and could I have it please?

To me, the messages fall easily into three groups.

First, there are people who are clearly rattling off a quick message. They don’t think (or don’t care) about how demanding and rude they sound. Reading these messages simply got my back up. If they can’t be bothered to be polite, will they bother to turn up?

Then there are people who ask politely and give some sense that they would be reliable in collecting.

But the three best requests make the effort to include a bit of a narrative about why they would love to have my rocking chair. (One wants a nursing chair, the other says it would be fantastic addition to a loving home, and the third wants it for his little girl in their new house.)

See the power of ‘story’!

With Freecycle, I usually offer the item to the very first person to respond, as I think it’s the only way to prevent unfair assumptions. But in future I may start listening to my gut reactions when reading the messages. Not the grammar, the punctuation, the spelling – but the tone, the content – the picture the words paint. Is that fair? It’s my chair!

Translated into the commercial world, it’s this: I’ve got something (custom) you want. It’s up to you to make me want to give it to (do business with) you.

So make sure your writing does you credit. Or you may never know how much business / interest / uptake you’re missing out on.

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