Did that headline make you stop and think? Are you wondering, right now, what on earth I mean?
If so, good!
Let me explain. In this digitally enabled world, we usually meet people in a ‘not in person’ way, long before we ever see them face to face. We meet them first by them coming to our website, by them reading our brochure (online, or on paper), in email, by messenger, in a post on our Facebook page etc, etc – the list of ways is endless. All of those ‘not in person’ ways have one thing in common though – they involve the written word.
When you meet someone, for the first time, in person, you assess them in a number of ways – not just by what they say, but by how they say it. Their body language, facial expression, tone of voice, appearance and manner all affect how you interpret the words that they speak. When you meet someone first in any of those ‘not in person’ ways, none of those additional clues are available – all you have to assess them on is the words. And therefore, your assessment depends on what those written words mean to you, on how you interpret them, and on what the style, spelling and sentence construction imply to you about what sort of person they are.
So….. back to that headline……
How closely have you looked at what is written on your blog posts, on your website, in your brochure etc? Did you throw it together and just get it up there? Or did you get it proofread three times over, and get multiple people to tell you what it meant to them (as against what you thought it meant when you wrote it – which may be completely different from how people read it!).
We humans are judgemental creatures. We like to feel superior, we like to associate with people who are ‘on our level’ – and we do all of that at a subconscious level, no matter what we say about our attitudes. So – if your website or brochure has anything about its writing, that provides an opportunity for someone to judge you and your business, as lacking, they will – and they may not even realise that they are doing it!
Here are some of the things that are easily fixed, but will lose you clients if you don’t fix them:-
- Spelling mistakes – spelling mistakes imply that either you are uneducated, or that you are careless, that you do not bother to put attention to detail into your work (which does not make you a good person to hire…)
- Wrong word usage – things like complimentary and complementary – the words are very similar, yet their meaning is quite different. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sets of words like this in the English language. Use the wrong word, and at best you will come across as uneducated and ignorant, at worst, it will change the meaning of your sentence completely, and make it say something thoroughly unintended and potentially embarrassing too!
- Bad punctuation. Stop shuddering now! I know that just gave you flashbacks to school, and red pen marks on your essays. However much you hate it, punctuation is necessary, if the reader is to ‘hear’ your words in their head as they read, in exactly the same way that you ‘heard’ them in yours, when you wrote them. Commas are particularly critical – they mark where the reader should pause slightly, to make the meaning clear. If you leave them out, you can accidentally completely change the meaning of the sentence – because the reader will run two words together, which are actually two separate concepts.
- Partial sentences, and sentences that don’t flow, or that ramble. If you get distracted when writing, and never finish the sentence, that looks totally unprofessional (and may make it very hard for the reader to know what you meant!). Equally bad is the case where your sentence is tangled and hard to understand. If the reader has to read it three times to work out what you mean, they probably won’t bother. Rambling, overlong sentences have the same effect – they get tangled very easily and confused the reader. Confused people don’t make positive buying decisions. If your sentence has ‘and’ in it more than twice, it is too long – find a way to break it into two smaller sentences.
- Hesitance in how you say things. If you are the best at something, say so. Don’t say ‘we believe that we are the best’ or ‘we think that we are the best’ just say ‘we are the best’. If you leave a space, by your words, for the reader to doubt you, they will – so don’t give them that opportunity.
Now – recruit a proofreader, and indulge your inner perfectionist on this one thing – and make your written words bring you more clients, not less!