There must be dozens of books out there on copywriting, all claiming to reveal exactly how you too can write killer copy. Some of them aren’t bad. Even so, when I’m asked “How can I improve my writing?”, I never recommend reading this kind of self-help educational guide. I simply say – read more fiction. In our line of business, in any given week, we will read many acres of words, but all of them will be similar; business reports, proposals, white papers, pitches, bids, internal memos … and so much of it that we don’t have the time or feel we have the appetite to read anything else. Even if seldom original, some of the business writing we work through is reasonably well put together. But when we have to deal with it in such huge quantities, the similarity of style, tone and format can take on a soulless monotony. Regardless of subject or content, it easier becomes flavourless and unmemorable. We are all guilty of writing this stuff ourselves. Once stuck in work mode, it’s hard to resist the grip of the well-worn groove and we end up aping the writing style of our peers. Business copy is often authored by people for whom writing is the least consequential task on their job description. And those who struggle to put words on a page will often bury their message beneath layers of verbiage, jargon and ‘business speak’ because they think that’s how it’s supposed to be done. But even those of us who are reasonably skilled and adventurous writers often feel we should play it safe and mirror the style we think everyone expects of us. Read more fiction Break out of this cycle. Put your business papers aside and bury your head in a good yarn. It doesn’t matter if it’s a page-turning thriller, a romantic novel or a Booker Prize winner…in fact, I’d recommend you try all three. The more genres you ingest, the most inspired writer you will become. It will soon rub off on your work. Obviously, you can’t write a memo to your boss as if it’s a Mills & Boon novel, but these global best-sellers are well-written and carefully edited narratives – and they are often, for instance, fine models of naturally written conversation. If your next work task demands that you write copy that ‘speaks’ to an audience, exposure to those language rhythms will make all the difference to your copy. You’ll find you express yourself more authentically and with more confidence. And you’ll effortlessly remember that ‘one size fits all’ writing is not the only show in town. There are so many different ways to convey what you want to say. You want to be a better writer? Just get down to Waterstones, The Works or, even better, your local independent bookshop and get your mitts on some good writing that someone already wrote. Of course, there’s also the Kindle and those e-books – but Yours Truly can’t quite believe that digital reading gives you the same experience. But that’s another story, for another time.