Writing online: naked words work hardest

People say a picture’s worth 1,000 words. But a few right, naked words are worth much more than 1,000 wrong ones whether pictorial or otherwise. Especially online in blog posts, web text, and above all in social media posts and comments.

Writing online: naked words work hardestWhy?
Because even though we have images, video, audio, infographics or other gizmos online, what really reverberates is words. Text.

Despite the popularity of live video on platforms like Facebook, Instagram et al, can you be sure that viewers will retain your message loud and clear? Even if they’re a little bit distracted by your beautiful earrings, the potted plant growing out of your left ear, or the zit on your chin?

Words – unless they are insipid or inappropriate – are the least likely of all presentation types to get in the way of your message.

Unsurprisingly, then, your choice of words in whatever you write online is critical, if you want to maintain a credible image. Your words are your mind, with no clutter – almost naked.

Choosing the words to include in all your media activity should be something you focus on carefully. Yes, of course – a blog post or a comment on Instagram will be gone in an instant (well, a day or three), but the image it can leave behind with readers can last for a very long time … especially if your words have been abusive, stupid, inappropriate, ill-conceived or any one of a dozen more whoopsies.

Don’t be fooled by the “grammar doesn’t matter” promoters.

It should go without saying that using reasonably correct grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax is essential if you want to be taken seriously and come across as a professional or even just credible, if you’re writing for social purposes.

Needless to say there is a hard core of people in cyberspace who stubbornly assert that all such pedantry is of little importance: what really matters is the message you’re communicating even if it does have mistakes in it. They may be right, I guess, up to a point, but…

Do you really want you, and/or your business, to be associated with silly errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.?

Can you afford to lose business because a prospect thinks, not unreasonably, that if you can’t get your grammar and spelling right in your blogs and social media content, what else do you (and your business) do wrong?

My own view is, don’t be intimidated by the nay-sayers who wallow in poor English (or any other language). Getting your writing right isn’t hard, and it really does pay dividends.

For more on how to get grammar right, you may want to browse through our Writing Mechanics category.

But getting that right isn’t all there is to it…

Never publish stuff when you’re angry, depressed, drunk or otherwise irrational.

No matter how much you may think a blog post, comment or other written contribution online might be absolutely bang-on right when you’ve had  a couple of drinks, never hit “send.”

Review what you’ve written next morning in the cold, sober light of day and you’ll usually find that you need to edit it, modify it, or dump it altogether.

If you’re angry about a topic or issue, leave it overnight in the same way. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to calm you down and make you see that the seemingly well-deserved insults you would have slung at someone in the heat of the night, aren’t actually deserved in the same intensity. And as insults can cost you in many ways, you may now choose to detune your words before publishing.

Avoid using words that readers could misinterpret.

If your readership consists largely of people for whom English is their mother tongue, skip this section.

But if you – like I do – have an international readership, you need to realize that no matter how much you feel that flowery, figurative language in English will work for your English-speaking readers – for your other readers, it won’t.

However this doesn’t mean that you have to grind your words right down to very basic, elementary English.

You’d be surprised at how well many non-native English speakers understand this loonie language.

Here on HTWB we get thousands of readers from all over the world – not just the main English language countries. According to the analytics they keep coming back, too, so would seem to understand everything I write despite my using figurative – and sometimes rather rude – English!

If international communication is important to you, though, it’s probably safer to phrase your English in a way that E2L (EFL) speakers can understand.

And whatever you do, don’t rely on the various auto-translation options via Google, etc…some of them are very misleading.

Your bare, naked, written words are still the most direct, and most powerful way to communicate online.

How do you feel about this? Do you see what I’m driving at, or are you a staunch devotee of video talking heads and other communication vehicles?

Please share your thoughts!