Writing properly for business: why does it matter? Really?

Lots of experts tell you that it’s important to write properly for business. I am no exception.

Writing properly for business: why does it matter? Really?

It’s not just about pleasing the Grammar Fascists … writing properly for business wins you more credibility

In fact I am often accused of being a Grammar Fascist (Grammar Nazis have fallen foul of the Political Correctness Police, by the way) because I maintain that basic goofs in English are a no-no if you want to be taken seriously in business.

It’s not just for the obvious reasons why writing properly for business matters.

The two reasons I always trot out when asked why I am such a pompous cow about correct English are a) writing poor English can make you look unprofessional and b) it can confuse your readers so they misinterpret what you have written.

But there are other implications which, although not as in-yer-face as the previous two, still can damage your image and your brand.

Here are some stark areas of your business writing in which an innocent mistake can make your readers think negatively…

You can’t be bothered to check your spelling

If something you read on a website, in an email, in a blog post, in a social media comment, etc. contains spelling mistakes, in all probability the intrinsic spell-checker has been screaming bloody murder at you to show you where you have goofed.

Those little squiggly colored lines are very hard to miss as I know only too well. (I’m not bad at spelling, but my typing sucks.)

Anyway, what do the remaining spelling mistakes tell you about whoever has written them? That they don’t get the spellchecker concept? (Not very online savvy…) That they are in too much of a hurry to bother with the spellchecker? (Can’t really value your time reading their stuff.)

[ctt title=”Writing properly for business is a no-brainer if you follow the guidelines of your spell-checker. I know they miss some goofs, but they do pick up the majority so for Heaven’s sake, follow their advice.” tweet=”Writing properly for business is a no-brainer if you follow the guidelines of your spell-checker. I know they miss some goofs, but they do pick up the majority so for Heaven’s sake, follow their advice.” coverup=”85pAf”]

You use lazy grammar

Using cute grammar boo-boos that are acceptable in a Cockney pub, a cattle drive in Arizona or a sheep farm in New Zealand are all fine, but expecting your customers to feel as laid back about it isn’t.

In a business context people may not expect literary perfection, but some feel a bit miffed if you cheerfully write the way your particular argot is spoken casually. And although you may think those people are being stuffy, you probably would think differently if they were potential customers.

Some examples…

Here is a blog post I have wrote … should be either I wrote or I have written

He don’t go to that supplier any more … should be he doesn’t

There’s 25 clauses in this contract … should be There are

All the things that make you and your business fabulous, is lost in the noise. … Should be all the thingsare lost. Make sure the verb and noun agree.

If my products are not what they need, I don’t want them to buy it. … Should be If my products … to buy them. Once again, connect the tenses.

You don’t care where you stick (or don’t stick) your apostrophes

Many of us (not just us pompous writers, either) are fed up with seeing apostrophes where they have no business to be.

Even people with excellent educations still can’t get their heads around the fact that a plural does not normally need an apostrophe.

Yet you still see abundant example’s …

Then you often see it’s when it should be its (and vice versa)

And you’re when it should be your (and vice versa).

Once again, the readers of your words may be a bit stuffy about such things, but can you afford to turn potential customers away because they dislike your casual approach to writing properly for business in the English language?

I know you may wonder why that should matter when you are the most ably qualified plumber in south London or the most highly accredited scaffolding hire company in Sydney or the most reliable snow-clearing organization in Toronto, but trust me. It does matter.

[ctt title=”Get all of your grammar and syntax right and you will get ahead of your competitors … who don’t think they matter.” tweet=”Get all of your grammar and syntax right and you will get ahead of your competitors … who don’t think they matter.” coverup=”jBM0H”]

Your syntax sucks

Do you know what I mean by syntax? Dictionary.com gives a long list of fancy definitions and, not being an English graduate, I can’t carve it out on tablets of stone other than to say, it’s the logic of a sentence. Making sure the subject works properly with the object. And all that.

Yet even in one of the most popular newspapers in the UK, you’ll see hilarious syntax goofs like the following, taken from actual captions which have appeared in one of the UK’s most loved/hated “tabloid” newspapers:

Jenna Elfman towered over her husband Bodhi Elfman in high heels should be Jenna Elfman, in high heels, towered over her husband Bodhi Elfman

Pippa Middleton arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 wearing a cape with her boyfriend Nico Jackson. … should be Pippa Middleton, wearing a cape, arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 with her boyfriend Nico Jackson.

Victoria Beckham attended the Royal Wedding with husband David wearing a trapeze design of her own and Christian Louboutin shoes. Just a simple comma is enough to make sense of it … Victoria Beckham attended the Royal Wedding with husband David, wearing a trapeze design of her own and Christian Louboutin shoes.

The Queen is flanked by William holding George and Charles. …probably would have been clearer to say The Queen is flanked by Charles, and William holding George.

You can’t make up your mind if it’s about “us” or “me”

Arrrggh! Get your ego sorted out, please. And even modest little “moi” falls victim to the Royal “We” syndrome.

In my case I can claim mitigating circumstances up to a point because HTWB is around 80 percent all about me, but there are many others who have contributed to its success and I don’t like to leave them out.

But we should get away from the emotional side and just focus on how that dichotomy might bamboozle prospective customers reading your website, as in the following examples from a real website; both are sub-headings on its home page …

Let us help you with your marketing.
Did I mention how reasonably priced the Monthly Marketing Action Plans are?

In this example consistency is sadly absent, and the “I” that creeps in suggests one of two things:

1.The company concerned wants to appear bigger but consists of one person only
2.The company concerned consists of a team led by one person who sees him/herself as the only one who matters

…neither of which is going to appeal to a target audience.

So writing properly for business needs you to avoid these undesirables

…not just because we Grammar Fascists are bullying you to write “properly,” but also because writing “properly” gets you taken that bit more seriously – and gains you that bit more respect – than your competitors.

What’s “not to like?”

Please share your thoughts on the more subtle reasons why writing properly for business can help your business be more successful.

In some ways I have only scratched the surface in this article because I know there are many other elements that could be considered, but here I have tried only to focus on the most common ones.

However please share your thoughts either on the elements I have described, or on those which I haven’t. It’s a topic that that merits some good discussion!

 

Image thanks to  http://pixabay.com/en/grammar-magnifier-magnifying-glass-389907/

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  2. […] Writing properly for business – why does it matter? Really? After years of being accused of being a Grammar Fascist I thought I would try to set the record straight by sharing some common sense reasons why it pays to write correctly. I also published this on LinkedIn and got big discussions going in several groups…seems it’s a topic everyone loves to hate! […]

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