From Catherine: This rant is brought to you by the Number 3 – the minimum number of times you should read something before you hit send or publish. I have seen clients send out cover letters with multiple typos, and I have seen blog posts so riddled with errors that I couldn’t concentrate on the content. (Don’t be the person who does that.) And I have made my share of typos, but I really, really try not to.
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Today, I am grateful to Carol because I can rant in a non-coachy-feely way, and with a tone that might not be appropriate for my company blog. Today’s rant is brought to you by laziness and sloppiness, two demons running rampant in the online world.
Let me set the stage for you. I have some minor vision and dyslexia issues. Strangely enough, I also am a strong writer and have frequently held jobs where I was paid well to write. Here’s the thing: I literally can’t see certain types of errors sometimes. But I know this, so I manage against it. I read everything AT LEAST three times – e-mails, blog posts, whatever. I read it out loud. And I have other people copyedit for me if it is something important.
I am still fuming from a call I had with my mentorship group recently. Michael Port was talking about being authentic in your copy and letting your true voice and quirks shine through. Let’s have high-fives all around! I couldn’t agree more. But somehow, following rules of grammar got bashed and trivialized in the conversation too. I took offense to this.
Let me explain. I completely agree that blog writing and certain kinds of copy writing can bend the rules of formal grammar – and maybe even should – to create a feeling. We often use sentence fragments, extra punctuation, and other tricks to make it sound like we are actually talking to the reader. I am all good with that. In fact, we have some specific language around that for the guest post guidelines for this blog:
“Editing: We reserve the right to copyedit for style, etc. and we will only send drafts back for approval if materially changed. Please note that blog writing is more casual than other types of writing and we may occasionally bend some grammar rules.”
Nobody likes the grammar police who come in and do a “swoop and poop” on the copy that you poured your heart and soul into, and took you hours to write. We have all experienced that and it hurts your feelings. It hurts mine too.
Here’s the thing. I have read hundreds of drafts for people and for business writing, you can save yourself 80% of your mistakes just by looking for these common mistakes that spell check won’t catch:
You, your, you’re
There, their, they’re
Too, to, two
These aren’t “missing a comma” mistakes. They are mistakes that make you look like you slept through high school. I have read posts from very famous people that had so many errors in them that I couldn’t process their message. Don’t be that person.
Be authentic and definitely let your personality come through. But also be professional. Your personal and company brand are on the line with everything that you publish. You want to put your best foot forward. You want to shine! Don’t let this be a block for you. However, know that there IS brand risk when you publish content that is sloppy.
If you know that you are not a strong writer, have someone copyedit for you. Don’t let them edit your tone. Rather, have them only address “fatal flaws.” Be ruthless about that. Your brand is your brand and you should control how you are known in the world. Here endeth the sermon.
Catherine Morgan is the editorial director for CarolRoth.com | Business Unplugged and the founder of Point A to Point B Transitions Inc. She is a business consultant to consultants and a career transition coach. Catherine is an engaging public speaker who frequently presents on several topics, including career transition, growing a solo service business, and productivity.