Spelling and grammar – eugh – cue audible groan! I know, I know! It can be a real pain in the bum not being able to just let your creative juices flow, but, it’s amazing how many people you can “put off” reading your stuff because you haven’t bothered to check your spelling. Whether it’s social media, an article on your own blog or a guest blog on a super-savvy site; your spelling and grammar should be on fleek (OMG did I just say that!?)
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What sounds perfectly readable in your own head, may not be when read by another person. So, it’s really important to ensure that WHOEVER reads your beautiful work, it’s understandable. Spelling and grammar are a huge part of that for a writer, and here’s some useful hints that can help you go from middle of the road, to middle of the stage!
Know your Audience
Understanding who you are writing for is crucial when creating something that you know is going to impact them. What you’re writing might be the world’s best guide to something, but if you write it based on the wrong readership, it ain’t going anywhere fast. You can put people off in the first sentence of your opening line in a blog post or article, and ensure no one “clicks here” on social media shout-outs that are phrased incorrectly.
Understand the difference between academic and other forms of writing. I wouldn’t write for the financial times in the same way that I talk to you guys, would I? I’m sure their editor would take one look at this writing style and snort loudly into his coffee! It wouldn’t connect with his audience therefore why would he share my writing. However, mummy bloggers might read my writing as a more down-to-earth and understandable concept; therefore, making it accessible to them and pressing all the right buttons, as a blog intends to do. For example, using words like money and cash-flow would be more relatable to people like you and I, however, if I were to write for the Financial Times (I promise I’ve no plans to coz I wouldn’t have a clue!) I’d use words like finances and capital. You see? Good! It’s the same for any piece of work you do. As a blogger, I have many different “heads” that I put on depending on the topic I’m writing about, the platform that it will be shared on and the person it is intended for. My eBook is similarly put together as my blog, as my writing style is directed at the same audience.
Having said that, your personality and brand should always be there. No matter if it’s an email to an editor, a comment on an article I’ve read or a book I’ve written, my personality is there and therefore my brand is consistent. What will change though are the terms I use, the writing style I take on and the overall “readability” is appropriate to the audience.
Emails are respectful but filled with personality. They should be to the point, engaging but humble (especially if you’re asking for something!) Blog posts on the other hand are talking to my “people” – they’re me, through and through; because that’s what my readers like to read about. My language is different, more casual. A social media post promoting an awesome product might contain both my personality and the products branding. You get my drift?
In summary, being mindful of what you’re saying and who you’re saying it too, will help you to be successful in writing.
Before you commence with your next piece of work, be sure to know:
- Who it is going to?
- Who is reading it?
- What do they want from your writing?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What is your message?
- Is that message clear?
Use the Damned Tools!
In the modern age of technology there is absolutely no excuse for poor spelling and grammar. I don’t know about you, but if I see someone having a rant on Facebook, and their first sentence contains an epic spelling or grammar fail; I’m far less likely to take their point seriously or, in some cases, to even continue reading it. It’s a simple fact of self-editing, and it isn’t tough to do.
Resources like spell check, google facilities like antonym/synonym look-ups and the good old thesaurus and dictionary are useful tools that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Also, going back to the point of audience; ensure that your spelling is appropriate to the audience. US and UK spelling is completely different for some words! That’s okay though. I know that 78% of my readers are based in the UK, therefore my spell check is focused on their understanding of the language. The other readers will still understand what I’m saying, but my main readership is at the front of my mind – always.
Listen to Yourself!
Listening to how your work sounds, outside of your own head, is really helpful to understanding if your words come across in the right way. It also finds the typo’s that were hiding away! Google translate is an overlooked tool because people automatically assume that you need to be translating your work into another language to use it. Not true! The lovely google lady will speak your paragraph to you, helpfully providing an overview (if slightly robotic) of how your text reads. This is super important if you’ve been very focused on a project and get “word-blind” to any errors.
On that note, it’s also a good plan to step away from your work and proof read it again, one last time, before hitting publish. This way, you remove yourself from the potential for “word-blindness” by taking your mind off the project for a time. Sometimes I’ll leave work for an hour; other times its 3 days before I get back to it. But it’s worth doing. Simply because errors that you would have never noticed while knee-deep in your own words, are more likely to jump out at you.
Ensuring you use the tools available not only creates super-sleek writing that will stand the test of time, but it also gives the audience a sense of you. They are more likely to take your point seriously and potentially side with your opinion if it is presented in a clear and well-formatted manner. If you’ve jumbled up your where’s, or made a mash of your “yours”, then trusting that you are an expert in your field can sometimes be a little more difficult. Don’t create a hurdle for yourself that doesn’t already exist! It’s tough enough in the writing world without creating your own barriers!
Give credence to the enormous power of the English language and watch how it can change the way people perceive you, your business and your writing. Spelling and grammar are the foundation to that respect as a writer; keep it clean, clear and correct!
I’d love to hear about your favourite editing tools? What’s your grammar bug-bear that you must look away from? I’d love to know! Hit me up in the comments!!