I grew up during the birth of instant messaging. For me, it was pretty much the coolest thing since…ever, probably because it took both the awkwardness and the tedious nature out of written communication. Looking back, I can even remember the first time I saw the letters “LOL” appear on the screen. The phrase really took off, and we all used it like it was going out of style, except it never really did.
And it didn’t stop there. Soon I realized that people were abbreviating just about everything, even hacking away at words that were already short in their natural form. I mean, are we so engaged in communication that the ‘h’ in ‘what’ is justifiably disposable in any circumstance? Wat is that about?…
It seems to me like the inherent urgency of online communication has muddled internet shorthand with the actual language (like, the one that’s written in the dictionary). Now we’ve even forgotten how words and sentences are supposed to look, because we haven’t practiced formal grammatical structure or phonetics since the Internet was invented. We’ve become so accustomed to just hitting keys and letting the computer do the rest (Google Docs just introduced a web-based spellchecker that is smart enough to recognize even contextual misspellings), it’s no wonder we make mistakes.
Unfortunately there is no room for mistakes in marketing and advertising. We thrive on perfection, and delivering pre-established results to establish our value to clients. Let’s face it, image is everything. And in an era that displays our image on the Internet for potential clients or employers to read, laugh at, and swiftly dismiss for grammatical or spelling errors, it is more important than ever to refine your writing skills. As we all know: in the real world, you only have one chance to make an impression.
Whether you’re creating content for your brand’s social media, corresponding with LinkedIn connections, writing copy for your website, or just tailoring your resume, here’s how to make sure your professional writing is typo-less, error-less, and just plain flawless:
1) First and foremost: always have another set of eye’s look over your writing. Because you know what you meant to write, you are a lot less likely to notice your own grammatical mistakes. And in the end it doesn’t matter what you meant to write, but what you wrote.
2) If you can’t find anyone (and I mean anyone: the office janitor, your teenage nephew, really anyone will do), read it aloud to yourself before hitting the almighty send/post button. This is especially appropriate for shorter writings, like tweets or updates.
3) When writing longer pieces of text, like web copy, blog entries, or editorial content, it also helps to read sentences and paragraphs backwards or out of order. With the structure of your writing out of the picture, it’s easier to perceive grammatical errors. I realize this might sound crazy. Just, take my word for it.
4) You can also do what I like to call the old school method, which allows you to read your writing on actual paper instead of a computer screen. (Hint: it involves a red, or any other bright colored marker and a hard copy of what you wrote.)
5) This may seem like common sense, but never write anything important under self-sabotage conditions like zero sleep or an empty stomach. You’re setting yourself up for failure. And you wouldn’t want that, would you?