Good writing is critical to a successful business. Whether you are writing a letter to a prospective client, updating your website or blog, or posting to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, your writing presents your business image to the world.
Have you thought about what your writing says about you lately? Does it tell new visitors to your website, blog or Facebook page that you care about your business, that you take pride in your work and that you can provide them with a high-quality experience? Or does it tell them that you’re just too busy to be bothered?
As part of a very large project I’m working on, I’ve had the opportunity to read more than 1000 blog posts in the past week from a variety of different writers. While nearly all the blog posts had great, interesting information in them, the difference in quality was astounding. Some were well written and laid out, with proper punctuation, capitalization and paragraph separations. Others reminded me of my children’s grade-school writing exercises. You know, the ones where the kids are told to write continuously about anything, without stopping and without regard to grammar, spelling or punctuation for 15 minutes. Personally, I think that’s a bad idea–unless they’re allowed to go back afterward and correct those things–but that’s another topic for another day.
A blog post is not a giant text message. A blog post doesn’t need to be Pulitzer material, nor does it need to be written to the standards of your 12th-grade term paper. It’s okay to write conversationally in your blog; it’s okay to take a few liberties with convention. If you’re a business blogger, your standard of care does need to be somewhat higher than a personal blogger. In either case, though, there are a few basic rules of grammar and punctuation that really do need to be followed if you want people to read your blog more than once.
- Sentences should begin with a capital letter and end with a period, question mark or exclamation point.
- “I” should always be capitalized–unless you’re e.e. cummings.
- Paragraphs are good things. They break up big blocks of text into visually and mentally manageable sections and keep your blog post from looking like a dissertation.
- Contractions require the use of appropriately placed apostrophes.
- Spell check is a good thing. Use it. It is not, however, a substitute for proof reading. Do that, too. If you’re really bad at it, find a friend, an employee or even a virtual assistant to proofread your blog posts, web updates or advertising pieces before you publish them. If you’re mentioning a person or company by name, spell it right. Take the time to double check the spelling of names, places and companies. It increases your credibility immensely.
- Figure out what it is you want to say before you publish your post. It is perfectly fine to make an outline for blog posts and longer articles to make sure you cover all the critical points. Rambling blog posts that roam from subject to subject lose the reader’s attention and result in a hasty exit from your site.
- And, finally, my favorite piece of journalism school advice: never use a two-dollar word when a 50-cent word will do. Using big words and lots of jargon doesn’t make you look smarter. Writing posts that your readers can understand will. Avoid technical jargon and terms generally used only by insiders in your industry.
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Marie Leslie is the chief Creative Genius at Marie Leslie Media. With 30 years experience as a professional writer, editor and photographer she has had work published in many regional and national magazines. Marie currently writes and teaches about business and social media, helping people to understand and make use of the ever-changing internet. She offers social media training and set up, including blog set-up and optimization as well as blog writing & social media management services.