Anyone can be a published author now – and it shows. Make your social media content more credible by using correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.
You see it everywhere, every day on the web: nearly unintelligible writing. It’s not just the abbreviated words that texting has ushered in; that’s understandable in the comments sections of media sites, or in Twitter and Facebook updates.
But myriad professional websites and blogs are written as if by a not-so-conscientious schoolchild. Bad grammar, punctuation and spelling have even crept into major newspapers and magazines.
Blame it on poor education, on shrinking media budgets that gut copy editing staffs or on the internet itself, which lets anyone with a keyboard spill out their thoughts for the world to see.
Don’t let it happen to you. How you say what you say is almost as important as what you say. Just because we’re inundated with mediocrity on the web doesn’t mean we should set the bar lower.
As Far As…
It’s not just English majors and schoolteachers who notice errors in the printed word online. Many consumers and businesses who are sizing your company up online look askance at sloppy copy.
Just because an incorrect spelling or improper phrase gets used frequently by high-profile individuals doesn’t mean that you can fall back on the old, Well, it’s common usage…. You’ve likely heard a TV weatherman say something like, As far as the weather, it’s going to be a beauty tomorrow. What happened to, As far as the weather is concerned or goes?
So it’s not just the kids in the chat rooms. Educated professionals are encouraging bad usage by modeling it.
Free and Inexpensive Help
You need every advantage you can get to compete in the online marketplace. Clean, readable writing that incorporates the proper use of grammar, spelling and punctuation enhances your image. It’s a simple thing to do.
How? You don’t have to dazzle people with esoteric words. In fact, according to one of the bibles of good writing, The Elements of Style, you shouldn’t use a big, fancy word when a simpler one will do. The idea is to be easily understood by your readers. Newspaper writers are often instructed to write in a style that the average 14-year-old could understand.
Don’t trust your own writing skills?
• Look within your own staff. There are liberal arts majors lurking everywhere these days. Put out a call for an editor.
• Use Microsoft Word’s built-in tools. You probably have the spell-checker on, but let the grammar tool take a run at your writing, too. Turn on the thesaurus (or right-click on any word to activate it) and vary your vocabulary.
• Subscribe to an online proofreader/writing coach. Grammarly is one; $11.66/month if you pay annually. Here’s an excellent basic primer outlining common errors.
• Read. The best writers are often reading good books and respected publications when they’re not composing.
• Read your content aloud.
• Spring for a couple of writing books, preferably fun ones like The Elephants of Style or Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
Your tone is important, too, and that’s often difficult to get across in print. You’ve probably had someone bristle at an email you sent — when you hadn’t intended offense at all.
Speak directly to your audience. Say, for example, “If you’re running into problems with your heating system,” rather than, “Many homeowners have reported problems with their heating systems.”
The way you present yourself in words online is something like the way your salespeople present themselves in face-to-face meetings. Bad grammar, punctuation and spelling = uncombed hair, wrinkled shirt and clashing colours. So straighten your tie.