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    Write It Right

    We live in a digital business world where skype-connectivity and mobile phones are the norm. Yet we still use written language – whether for Facebook, blogging, advertising copy, or just everyday emails. Each form of writing has its own appropriate tone and use of language. A business plan sent to your bank manager is unlikely to cut much ice if it’s written in a conversational style more suited to a Facebook post about hilarious dance-like-nobody’s-watching video fails. Enough said…

    At the casual end of this spectrum, I would suggest that spelling errors and grammatical weirdness don’t matter too much. My totally unscientific guesstimate is that quite possibly 80% of your audience wouldn’t even notice. And for the other 20%, it could be argued that your misplaced apostrophes in a Facebook post about your cat simply endear you to them – they show you’re human, you’re in a hurry, you have fat fingers.

    But moving a little further along the line, what about a Facebook post advertising your product? Sure, those people who don’t notice language errors won’t notice that you’ve used correct spelling and grammar either. But the twitchy 20% might be less inclined to cut you some slack for your slip-ups. You’re a professional businessperson, you’re trying to encourage people to buy something from you, and you can’t even be bothered to check if you’ve used “there” correctly?? How can I be certain you bothered to ensure the product is of good quality, or that you’ll be bothered to package it adequately so it doesn’t break, or be bothered to send it to me at all? OK, these thoughts are probably not formulated in a conscious way, but at a subconscious level, poor English can raise little lurking doubts that may hold people back from committing to a purchase.

    The same considerations are relevant for blogging too. Depending on the nature of your business, your blog may be relaxed, informal, conversational, off-the-wall even. In this case, language errors may hold the endearment factor for your readers, although I suggest there’s probably a threshold you shouldn’t overstep here! Other bloggers write in order to offer expert information and advice to their audience in a clear straightforward way. Common spelling or grammatical errors in these types of blogs are likely to set small alarm bells ringing in the synapses of readers making them question the professionalism of the writer and, by extension, the professionalism of the writer’s business.

    As you move up the spectrum towards more formal business communications (such as those with customers, potential suppliers or stockists, or bank managers), the advantages of error-free writing ramp up another notch. It’s not so much that the recipients will notice and admire your immaculate grammar and spelling. It’s more that they are likely to be unpleasantly jarred by simple slip-ups that make you look – not to put too fine a point on it – dumb! And they may be less inclined to take you seriously…

    Four Common Errors to Avoid (or How to Un-Dumb Your Writing)

    1. Your vs You’re

    “Your” shows possession – it indicates something belonging to you.

    eg your hat, your choice, your money

    Question to ask: Does the thing belong to you?

    Yes -> use “your”

    “You’re” is a contraction (shortened form) of “you are”. The apostrophe stands in place of the missing letter “a”.

    eg you’re really going to love our product

    Question to ask: Does it mean the same thing if I replace it with “you are”?

    Yes -> use “you’re”

    2. Its vs It’s

    “Its” shows possession – it indicates something belonging to it.

    eg its quality, its buttons

    Question to ask: Does the thing belong to it?

    Yes -> use “its”

    “It’s” is a contraction (shortened form) of “it is”. The apostrophe stands in place of the missing letter “i”.

    eg it’s a truly versatile gismo

    Question to ask: Does it mean the same thing if I replace it with “it is”?

    Yes -> use “it’s”

    3. Their vs There

    “Their” shows possession – it indicates something belonging to them.

    eg their opinions, their boxes

    Question to ask: Does the thing belong to them?

    Yes -> use “their”

    “There” can be used in many ways:

    To indicate a fact or the existence of something

    eg there are many colours available

    To indicate place or position

    eg we stayed there for a week

    4. Affect vs Effect

    “Affect” is almost always a verb (an action) meaning to have an impact or influence on.

    eg what he said affected my decision

    Question to ask: Is it a verb? (verb = action word; “affect” and “action” both start with “a”)

    Does it mean the same thing if I replace it with “have an impact on”?

    Yes -> used “affect”

    “Effect” is almost always a noun (a thing) meaning an outcome or result or impact.

    eg what he said had an effect on my decision

    Question to ask: Is it a noun?

    Does it mean the same thing if I replace it with “outcome” or “impact”?

    Yes -> used “effect”

    Note: “affect” and “effect” are more complicated than that, but that’s enough confusion in the meantime

    Next time you’ve finished writing a post or blog or email, take a moment to look over it carefully. Search the text of what you’ve written specifically (not “pacifically”, please, haha!) for the above examples. Spellcheck will not bring them up as errors because they are not misspelled, but you may have misused them in context. So… consider in each case what you’re trying to say and whether you’ve used the correct form. Hope you find this helpful. Have fun writing!

    This blog was written by Pam Hutton of PuzzleBeetle

    Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    Website: https://www.puzzlebeetle.co.nz/