Grammar Gremlins, Shoddy Spelling, and Cantankerous Typos

We’re often told first impressions matter. What does a first impression say about you and your business?

Business owners and fellow bloggers/artists/writers/creative types, could grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and unnoticed typos be sending a message you didn’t intend?

I enjoy wordplay – crafting narrative text – creative messages and stories from found words and ideas that roll around in my head {or smack me when I least expect it}.  I also get plenty of inspiration from reading others’ wordplay, too.

But there’s another kind of writing – informational, daily text – signs, menus, advertisements, messages, invitations, flyers, projects for the workplace, etc… the content of everyday life, including business. I like to read and create this text, often describing myself as an ‘information junkie.’

What surprises me about daily text is how often it’s riddled with sloppy writing in our increasingly informal culture (in the U.S, anyway).  For a few years, I used the local newspaper in our community to teach writing. There were so many errors that students were surprised the publisher went to press each week.

Are business owners lazy? uneducated?  Definitely not. Their mistakes are, however, plentiful.

To be clear – we’re not talking about literary novels or academic papers, here.  Instead, we’re talking about ephemera – items designed to be useful or important for only a short time. Does that make the poorly written text acceptable? Goodness, no!

We’re talking about your business presence…. your livelihood. Your street cred.

 

We’re talking about writing basics that impact a business’s image:

Lack of editing that leaves mistyped words or too many words: Using “and” when you mean “an” or typing “the” twice and not not noticing.  {See what I did there?}

Incorrect word choice:  Its vs. it’s, farther vs. further, the triplets: two, to, and too; or quiet and quite. How about whose and who’s? Is it every day or everyday?  (Hint: Each applies at a specific time.)  How about apostrophes? All of these are frequent mistakes. Sloppy. Unnecessary.

Spelling errors:  With so many resources at our fingertips, spelling errors are just plain careless.

Because I read and write (a lot) for my ‘day gig,’ I see them every day – grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and typos that negatively impact a business’s (or person’s) image. We could chalk it up to busy-ness. We all have too much to do and not enough time to edit our message. Right? Wrong.

Prospective customers/clients want someone who is polished, with attention to detail, because if you’re careless in your message, where else will you be careless?

These are the place I see the most offenders (sometimes, even creeping into my own writing…..eek!):

  • Marquee signs
  • Restaurant menus
  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Websites
  • Newspapers
  • E-mail
  • Newsletters/Flyers
  • Advertising
  • Work-related papers

Just recently, I saw two glaring typos:  the misuse of it’s and its on a state’s Visitors page (used three times/two were incorrect) and the use of and when an was intended on the page banner of a fellow artist’s website. Uneducated? Absolutely not! Completely missed? Absolutely.

Think of it this way:

It’s like that time you miss a button or forget to zip your slacks. The person who notices might understand and probably feels badly for you, but won’t say a word. He figures you’re busy.  Or careless?  Ouch. He’s embarrassed for you. The person walks away, making a mental note of your lack of attention to detail or carelessness.

Your prospective customer/client may think the same way:  You’re (too) busy, you’re careless, or you don’t have a good grip on language basics. No matter what the customer/client is thinking, I’m betting it’s not the message you intended to send.

Potential buyers look for someone who is polished and attends to details.

 

So what’s a blogger/creative type or small business owner to do?

1.   Find an extra set of eyes. For a few dollars a month, ask someone to take a peek at your content: blog posts, website, flyers, menus, marquee signs (drive-by editing.. nice!)…. and give you feedback.

2.   Hire someone to write content/develop materials for you.

No budget? How about bartering?

In my 30+ years writing and 20+ years teaching writing, I’ve developed many projects and have been asked to help others refine their message, either by creating a written piece for them or editing/revising/proofing a work in progress.

  • Recommendation letters
  • Résumés
  • Annual Performance reviews
  • E-mail messages
  • Advertising
  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Teachers’ How-To
  • Curriculum resources
  • Community resources
  • Grants
  • College Application Essays/Letters
  • Book drafts (two manuscripts in progress)

Give your prospective customers/clients one more reason to select you.  Show them your attention to detail, often missing in today’s hectic world. It may be the very thing that sets you apart from your competitor.

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Feel like you could use an extra set of eyes to proof, fingers to develop, or time to  brainstorm?  Click on the Writing tab or send me a Message on the RobinLK Studios Facebook page.  Would be happy to talk about your business needs.

Build it. Write it. Paint it. They will Come.

Remember that movie, Field of Dreams, and the oft-quoted line: If you build it, he (they) will come? How many times have you used that sentiment in your own life? Yep. Me, too. So here goes….

To make the Tax Lady happy last year about this time (or, at the very least, to keep her from scowling at me), I promised to increase my small business income by 20% – working toward a respectable number, thank-you-very-much… one that would be moving north while my expenses move south. You get the picture.

Fast-forward a year. I’m ready to see the Tax Lady. I suppose when you start with nothing, the only way to go is up, right? I seem to be heading {slowly} in that direction, and I’m pleased. For a little lady, she can be tough. And this gal crumbles under that kind of pressure!

baby crying
photo credit: theanxietylife.com

So what happened that I’m ready to face the number-crunching-question-asking little lady?? I painted. I wrote. I attended. I lost sleep. I gained gray hair. I lost my eyeglasses (more than once), but found them just in time to finish those tiny details….

I worked hard to build it. And now, they are coming. Customers. Slowly, but surely, the word is getting out. The dollars are coming in. Still just a few, but hey, 20% more than the year before. I can face the Tax Lady with pride and satisfaction of work well done and a goal reached.

Now, I work my buttola off even harder this year to make {more} things happen.

Because

that’s

how

I

roll.

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Build it. Write it. Paint it. They will come.

 

Six To Consider: Writing Books Worth a Look

I’ve always got a stack of things to read, don’t you? My stack’s typically related to my latest interest or project. I’m a nonfiction reader, my current stack a mish-mash of art techniques and inspiration, small business ownership, and the craft of writing. When writing evaded me over the past year, I figured I’d read about writing until my own writing mojo found its way back! And my dear husband, who reads mostly on his iPad or iPhone (BIG screen) feeds my wish to have books near me… Christmas 2014 found a stack of Writing books and Writing magazine subscriptions under the tree…. a welcome diversion in a year that was often silent.

Here are a few that make my short list in an other otherwise long list of Writing resources, some found in the quiet of 2015 and several from years past:

cover of stephen king's on writing: a memoir of the craftFirst up – Stephen King’s, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, a fascinating read about the man behind the typewriter. The best part is, you don’t have to be a fan of his fiction to get a lot out of this book, though it’s definitely a bonus.  One of hundreds of tips to ponder as you read his book:

“Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.”  

Remember his gruesome accident in 1999, when he was hit by a car while out for a walk? That chance encounter makes a small appearance in this book….

 

cover of a book, how to write short, by roy peter clarkAnother favorite is one I wrote about [here] in 2014, How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. In that post, I ask:

How many words was your last blog post or article?  Under 100? 500? 1,000?  Did you get your message across? How do you know? Could you have said it in fewer words without losing its essence? What would have been the benefit of doing so?

Mr. Clark discusses the history of language and communication in this book, with an emphasis on short-form communication, a style that continues to be one of my favorites.  I’ve read a few of his books, even buying a copy for a few friends…. good stuff!

 

book cover: 140 CharactersThird on my list, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form, by Dom Sagolla, one of the co-creators of Twitter, is a nod to short-form communication, too, with a pretty cool discussion about the telegraph and Twitter. I originally blogged about this book in 2010 and did a remix in 2014 [here]. Brevity. Practicing.  😉

 

Next up on my list is a little book with a big message that was actually the second one I read by author, Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!

 

 

 

book cover: A Writer Teaches Writing A newer favorite, A Writer Teaches Writing, Second Edition, by Donald M. Murray, is ironically a much older publication, but a serendipitous discovery while reading Roy Peter Clark’s work. He referenced his ‘good friend Donald M. Murray,’ and in an instant I was taken back to a time I couldn’t remember clearly, but the name tickled my brain. Turns out, the copyright date is 1985, the year I graduated from high school, and the book appears to be a soft-cover textbook, like the ones found in high school and college composition classes … I suspect we crossed paths during my tumultuous high school and early college years – the book and I – it waiting patiently for me to be ‘ready’ to read it… which came 30 years later.

I also suspect I may have read some of his work back then and just don’t remember it specifically.  He summarizes his first chapter titled, Learning to Allow Learning, this way:

Several key assumptions underlie this book:

  1.  Writing is Thinking
  2. Writing is a Process
  3. Effective Teaching is Responsive
  4. Writing is an Interaction of the Global and the Particular
  5. There is No One Way

When I read this book in the past year, I remember thinking, It’s as if I wrote some parts of this book, like he was in my head! Now, I’m no Donald M. Murray, but my teaching/learning/writing philosophies are incredibly similar… Somehow, this man’s writing must have influenced me earlier on… lucky me, indeed.

 

book cover: A year of writing dangerouslyThe last book is one that arrived in the Christmas 2014 stack, but only recently made its migration from bookshelf to nightstand when I ‘re’discovered it on one of my Amazon Wish Lists and was about to buy the Kindle copy (because I was too impatient for Amazon Prime …overnight or two-day just wouldn’t do!) and realized, ‘Hey! I think I’ve got this book!’ Sure enough, waiting for me to find it when I was ready, A Year of Writing Dangerously: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement, sat quietly on my bookshelf.

Barbara Abercrombie’s compilation of anecdotal stories and quotes from fellow writers is a pleasant read and a joy to share.

 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Are there others you’d recommend? I’m always looking for new titles to replenish that nightstand stack. 😉