Disclaimer: This is not a soapbox rant about spelling mistakes. Actually, it’s mostly a series of GIFs. But we think this conversation needs to be more nuanced than the same old message, “Always proofread your work.” Different marketing platforms demand different types of language rules from us as marketers than in the old days. So, we’ve rounded up the three main mistakes to avoid or thoughtfully approach the next time you write copy for your business.
Conversations about spelling and grammar can often be preachy and shame-driven.
You deserve to spend your energy on more important things than imposter syndrome. So, we want to be vulnerable and let you know how we:
When you think of spelling errors or writing mistakes, what comes to mind? Do you imagine red pen marks all over your paper and a teacher standing over your desk with one eyebrow raised? Or that grammar-police friend who corrects your text messages?
Or would you rather not think about it at all? (No worries. Go forth in bliss, repressing your English teachers of the past.)
To save you the bad memories here is one of my embarrassing stories to prove this point:
It was the beginning of grad school. I was feeling nervous about the very first essay I’d submitted the week previous. I’ll never forget the sinking feeling I had when my professor returned the paper. On the first page, in red pen, he’d circled my third sentence and wrote the word, YUCK! 🙁 beside it.
Yes, apparently something I wrote was so wordy it called for disgust, capital letters and a sad face emoji. What happened next is what Brené Brown would call “a total shame storm.”
I may have felt embarrassed by the blunt delivery of his criticism. But knowing he was right resulted in shattering humiliation and imposter syndrome. I focused on this one negative situation and forgot about all the times I had been a successful writer. One little phrase in a paper that had otherwise earned me an excellent mark… it can still make me cringe when it pops back into my mind.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s all take a minute to breathe. This is a good time to remember that perfection is not the goal here. I did in fact survive grad school, and make a career for myself out of writing.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a [first draft].”– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
I know I’m not the only one who has at least some low-level trauma associated with learning to write, read or spell. At Crafted, we’ve worked with many wonderful people who’ve felt nervous to share their writing with us. And we should all hold space for that – with ourselves and with others. Writing is an exercise in vulnerability because it’s a way of using our voice. Also, let’s not forget that the relationship between women and their voices is a complicated one.
But truly, like most things in life, my writing mistakes have also been my best teachers.
Okay, we’ve established that mistakes happen. You’re learning and there’s no reason to feel like a failure for having a spelling mistake here and there.
But the truth is …
Spelling mistakes can cost you money.
Writing error-free messaging is an important way to build brand authority, no matter what industry you’re in. It only takes one glaring spelling mistake to counteract the credibility you’ve earned elsewhere.
There’s research to back this up. Studies show that spelling mistakes can cost your business money. When customers notice spelling mistakes, it has subconscious effects on their trust levels with a business. Don’t let all your time, energy and beautiful ideas go to waste because of a spelling mistake. Read below to learn three most common writing mistakes we’ve seen in our years of editing.
You know what we’re talking about. There’s always one word that makes you second guess yourself, looking up pleadingly at the heavens as you write it. You can’t remember if there’s a “u” in it, or if you put the “i” in the right place or God-forbid hyphens are involved. Sometimes, you just use all three variations of the word hoping that one of them will be right and no one will notice. Communication gods, have mercy on us all.
There are a lot of rules about spelling and grammar. To make things more complicated, these rules can change depending on the country or industry you work in.
For example, this is just one Canadian guide about spelling and grammar:
And even within this, there’s a lot of grey area.
If you’re starting a business and don’t know where to begin editing your material, then here’s our rule of thumb for you:
Be very consistent.
We’ve developed this protocol to help you make thoughtful decisions about spelling and grammar:
Doing this process once will save you so much time, energy and self-doubt in the long run. Using consistent spellings of the same words every time will present a clean and tidy image of your brand.
There are too many possibilities to cover in one blog post, but here are a few common mistakes to start editing for.
There are a few to get you started today! Decide the best option for your business and be consistent.
Every industry has its own inside language, also known as jargon.
Jargon can be:
Jargon (n.): special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.
“Difficult for others to understand” is the part of this definition we really want to pay attention to.
Yes, this does bring up a tricky tension:
On one hand, the English language is limited. So when we learn a new word that reflects how complicated our realities are, it’s great to add that vocabulary to our arsenal.
But not in marketing.
The average person sees over 3,000 advertising messages a day. If we use words that not everyone knows, we run the risks of:
So let’s remember this:
You’re an expert of your craft, and you’ve earned the right to know that vast array of vocabulary in your work. It might even be helpful (or expected) in some situations. When it comes to your marketing though, speak to your audience at a grade-school level. Use short sentences. Use the simplest, clearest form of words. Assume they have never heard of concepts even if they’re familiar to you.
And if you feel you must use some inside language, then always provide clear, thorough teaching around them.
Your goal in marketing is to connect with people and help them feel understood. That will never happen if they can’t understand you.
Using highly-specialized words in your marketing material will not reflect your expertise. It will isolate you from your audience.
This one can sting a little. If you go back and look through all your marketing material, how many times have you started sentences with I? We? Our? Us?
Using these pronouns is akin to staying in your comfort zone. It’s easy to list what we do, how we started, or why we’re good at what we do. It takes a little more work to empathize and understand the situations of our customers.
The truth is, when people are looking online for content, they don’t want to hear about us. They want to hear about themselves. They want to see themselves in photos, visualize themselves in the stories you tell and find solutions to their own problems.
The best way to make sure you’re making your customers the main character in your brand story? Use the word “you.”
Don’t misunderstand us – this doesn’t mean you can’t ever talk about yourself. Remember that our customers can intuitively sense self-absorption. They know when a brand is more dedicated to solving its own problems than their problems. Often, it’s because they are picking up on the 12 times you wrote “we” and the two times you wrote “I.”
For example, instead of writing: “At [Wild Flour Baking Co.] we began with a [desire to combine our passion for baking and art.]” You might considering reframing it as: You deserve a dessert experience that is delicious and artistic. That’s why at [Wild Flour Baking Co.], we make cakes, cookies and tarts that will satisfy all your senses. *Remember, “we” isn’t a taboo word entirely, you just want to make sure that talking about your brand and yourself isn't the main goal of the sentence. Make your customer the subject of your messaging.
One last thing before we conclude.
As you read earlier in this article, there is a lot of grey area in language. This is where context will matter a lot, and not every rule will always apply.
Also, sometimes there are rules you can rightfully break on purpose.
In fact, breaking “good English” rules is necessary for our language to evolve. And it does in fact need to evolve, so we can have better social justice and equality conversations.
So sometimes, spelling and grammar “errors” are needed. These intentional choices are examples of our culture changing language in service of more effective, ethical conversations. We want to see language continue evolving and changing to better reflect the diversity of our human experiences.
In summary, putting effort into your writing shows. You can let go of perfectionism while also writing good content.
Google is getting smarter. Algorithms can filter out well-written content from the poor content out there to give the people what they want. And at the end of the day, every new platform demands totally different writing voices and styles from us, so universal rules are becoming more dependent on context.
When you take a few extra steps to ensure you’re writing the best content you possibly can for the audience receiving it, you will see results.
You’ve identified the mistakes.
You’ve named them.
You’ve acknowledged them, and forgiven yourself for them.
Now part of accepting our mistakes is putting strategies in place to avoid them in the future.
We hope these three pointers set you up for a strong writing rebound in your business. If you’d like a few other helpers along the way, we would like to recommend these beginner resources:
This will help you accomplish the writing goals you’ve set for you and your brand. You deserve to feel good about your business communications when these goals focus on helping your audience.
And hey, if spelling and grammar just isn’t your thing, we’ve got your back. Send us your questions here.
If you want to read more about writing, check out these helpful articles!