Organisations invest huge sums of money on corporate branding, advertisements and expensive PR agencies to project the best possible image. All this effort, however, can be quickly undone by their employees and what and how they write. In the age of WhatsApp, Twitter, email and Facebook, good writing is more important than ever.
Remember, your company’s reputation depends on your good writing.
In the Age of Technology, Good Writing is Still Important
No matter that you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice. If you still persist in writing, “Good food at it’s best”, you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave.(Lynne Truss,
In spite of our reliance on technology, back to basics writing skills remain important. Good grammar skills reflect on a business in several ways. In addition to conveying a clear message, they can also illustrate respect for traditional values and attention to detail.
Grammar, Grammar, Grammar
Poor grammar can lead the reader to draw different conclusions. A basic grammatical error may cause the reader to question the overall quality of the company’s product or service. Typographical errors can often imply sloppiness or simply being in a rush, especially as software tools such as spell checkers are quick to use, very effective and are available in all major languages.
Poor grammar may also change the meaning of the message – sometimes unintentionally. An excellent book was published in 2003 that brilliantly illustrated the impact of poor punctuation: Eats, Shoots and Leaves.
…punctuation marks are the traffic signals of language: they tell us to slow down, notice this, take a detour, and stop. (Lynne Truss,
Adding an unnecessary punctuation mark can be as off-putting as forgetting one. There seems to be a recent trend in some businesses to add apostrophes where none are necessary, especially to the end of plural forms. Receiving a letter that starts with ‘Dear Customer’s’ may leave readers cold – from a grammatical perspective in addition to the impersonal nature of the latter.
The Influence of Foreign Languages and Different Dialects
Some writing errors may have their origins in foreign languages or different dialects of the same language. For example, someone who is translating a brochure from German to English may inadvertently make capitalisation errors if they don’t also change the way nouns are written.
Other businesses may be unaware that different dialects of English may have completely different meanings when used in different markets. For example, referring to trousers as pants in the UK may not be a good idea even if the advertisement is otherwise grammatically correct.
Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. (Lynne Truss,
Write to Your Audience
Finally, there are writing style considerations that organisations may wish to consider. Businesses that wish to market to young, trendy customers may intentionally use misspelt words or street slang they believe will resonate. Established institutions may continue to write in a formal, sometimes stuffy style to convey their history or pedigree.
There is no one correct way to write well. Understand your readers. If in doubt, choose clear words over clever words. Remember that on paper you lose tone of voice and other non-verbal expressions, so keep it simple wherever possible. And do not make simple grammatical and spelling errors.