We’ve all done it: you spend time crafting a thoughtful blog or social media post, you feel satisfied with the end result, and joyfully push send. Then, you review your content once published and realize there is a mistake! It feels awful, but fortunately, most posts are editable and you can quickly fix the error before too many people see said post.
However, we don’t always catch our mistakes and that can wreak havoc with our reputation among consumers. The words and messages put out into the world by a business bear significant weight and the public takes note of their value. Like I said, this happens to everyone occasionally and is not an indicator of writing proficiency. Rather, common mistakes are an example of how small businesses are juggling so many deliverables that details easily fall through the cracks and can negatively impact business.
Writing clearly, using proper grammar, and making content easy to read are key components to building your brand authority in the marketplace. In order to manage your industry credibility, and ensure you’re putting out the best content possible, review these five common mistakes and double check your work before hitting the publish button!
Make sure you proof your writing for any glaring errors. Spell check and autocorrect only go so far, so you need to check your work before sending it off to your audience. A beloved English teacher gave me this sage advice nearly two decades ago and I still use it daily:
Read your text backward. Any spelling errors will leap off the page, which makes editing your paper easy.
Try it out for yourself. You’ll notice how spelling mistakes stand out as you read from right to left.
If you’re unsure how to correctly spell a word, digital and print dictionaries are your best bet. Take a minute, find the word in the dictionary, and verify its spelling. There’s a reason dictionaries have stood the test of time; they’re incredibly helpful, so make the most of them!
Using the wrong word
In the same vein as misspelling words, using the wrong word in your writing does not instill confidence in the reader. There are many words that have similar spellings, but have drastically different meanings. Using ‘compliment’ when you ‘complement’ changes an entire sentence and leaves the reader confused and unsure of your credibility.
Below are common examples of words that are often confused and used incorrectly:
- Adverse and averse
- Affect and effect
- Compliment and complement
- Discreet and discrete
- Elicit and illicit
- Insure and ensure
- Principal and principle
- Proceed and precede
Again, having a dictionary handy helps you choose the correct word for your intended message.
Starting a sentence with a conjunction
In blog and social media posts, brands tend to have a conversational and friendly tone with their audiences. This makes peer-to-peer connection easier and helps customers feel as though they’re interacting with a person instead of a business. If you use this tone of voice, be careful when you begin a sentence with a conjunction. Just in case you’ve forgotten grammar rules, conjunctions are words such as ‘and’ and ‘but.’
While it may seem like the most conversational way to continue a thought, it’s not technically the best grammar. Remember to proof your content and confirm you have written a complete sentence instead of a fragment before you publish it.
In case you want a full refresher on conjunctions, and a walk down memory lane, Schoolhouse Rock’s Conjunction Junction tutorial is below:
Writing in large text blocks
As a reputable business, you have a lot to say and share with your audience, but beware of writing lengthy paragraphs. When readers see a page full of text, their attention spans practically evaporate and you’ve lost them before they’ve even begun to read your content. Formatting your text to be reader-friendly is often overlooked, but is a critical part of engaging your audience.
Write in short paragraphs and integrate headings, subheadings, and relevant images, like infographics, to divide your messages. These breaks give readers a moment to pause before they move to the next point. Snippets of text give them information in easily digestible chunks and increase the likelihood that they will continue reading.
Belaboring a point
As mentioned above, you have expertise and knowledge to share with your audience. Don’t diminish its value by making the same statement two or three times. If you can say it in one sentence, do that. Writing redundant sentences detracts from your authority and eats away at your credibility.
Hongkiat came up with the below examples of how redundant sentences can make your writing look silly:
- That way is the right direction. That is the right direction.
- That insect is a weird looking bug. That is a weird-looking bug.
See what I mean? Be succinct and make every sentence count. Readers value content that is straightforward and informative.
When it’s all said and done, taking a few extra minutes to dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s ensures your excellent content is not undermined by errors. How do you combat common writing mistakes? Share your tactics in the comments below.
About the Author: Julie Chomiak is the Content Marketing Specialist for Webs and Pagemodo. When she’s not scouring the web for small business trends, Julie loves traveling, interior design, and animals of all kinds. Get more from Julie on the Webs Blog and the Pagemodo blog.