I just love the internet. It’s the single greatest invention of my lifetime, and I can’t imagine living without it. But I wonder if, like me, you are often appalled, dismayed and horrified by the pitifully poor level of writing that you encounter there on a daily basis. I find daily the importance of most businesses need CONTENT, messages, stories, development that helps their brand, their website, their credibility and so forth. Writing is so important to every business. Good writing starts in school at any age if you think about it. Being able to work with corporations and businesses of all sizes myself, time and time again, I see the need for a decent writer. Of course, if you are good or great, you will stand out. I see it all the time. So many people get stuck or cannot portray their words on paper. My eight year old son does not favor writing (he favors math and sports), however, I stress to him the importance of developing good writing habits.
It’s right to make allowances when people are sincerely doing their best to express themselves in what is for them is a foreign language. But there are many other people who are self declared English native speakers, who simply don’t make the effort to write correct, compelling copy. In an age when much communication is electronic, the abbreviation, the contraction, and the abandonment of punctuation, seems to be the norm.
Please don’t be one of those people!
We have this wonderful, expressive treasure to play with, our beautiful language. Just look at say, a Spanish/English, English Spanish dictionary. The English/Spanish section will be close to twice as long as the Spanish/English section. Why? It’s because we have so many words in English, with such subtle shades of meaning. So why do we use the same dreary, depressing words, time and again, until they are worn out like a old pair of shoes, no longer fit to use?
If you want to communicate, your words need to sparkle and shine. If you have an online business, your one and only way to persuade people to buy is with words. People love stories, so make your brand into the hero of your story. Your business is precious and important to you, so your words mustn’t sell it short. If your writing is careless, dull and lifeless, and worst of all, incorrect, what does that say about you, your business, and your brand?
Not everyone has the gift of eloquence at the keyboard. Is it something that you can develop? Well, yes and no. Chances are you’ll find it hard to become great, but in the increasingly sloppy world of the internet, you will certainly stand out if you can write good, crisp, easy to understand copy.
So how do you become a good wordsmith?
Here are some ideas:
- Read as if your life depends on it.
- Read every day. There is no excuse for not reading, none. And just don’t read those free books you download on your Kindle, or the latest airport blockbuster – although these can be outstanding. Read the classics. Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, William Thackeray and Thomas Hardy are amongst my favorite stylists, with the great Jane Austen at the very top of that list.
- Write something every day — even if it’s just a paragraph or two.
- Write a letter to someone who’s dead. Write a description of your bedroom. Write about your favorite food. Write anything, but write.
Study punctuation and grammar.
A well known writing site has a grammar test for aspiring writers. The pass mark is a not too rigorous 70%. 70% of the people who take that test, fail it. Yet punctuation and grammar are the bones of writing, allowing us to express ourselves clearly. Punctuation and grammar are dying arts. Please don’t attend the funeral.
And that is the crux of the issue. Good writing is not about being overcome by the exuberance of your own verbosity. It’s not about impressing people with long words and obscure phrases. It is about writing crystal clear sentences, which are easy to understand, and which express exactly what we intend.
The famous example is this:
‘A panda bear goes into a bar and grill. Eats, shoots, and leaves.’
‘A panda bear goes into a bar and grill, eats shoots and leaves.’
The same words, but two entirely different meanings.
If you love to write, if you want to express you feelings, thoughts, and aspirations to others, then above all, respect the language, learn to love it, and use it correctly. Your business will benefit in ways that you can’t imagine.
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