It’s the era of short form – of “snackable” content (infographics, digital signage, videos, listicles), of images rather than words, of small sentences rather than long paragraphs. Where chat language and words that seem to be missing a good half of their letters, are the norm rather than the exception. It’s about getting the point across, not about grammar or using words correctly, right? Wrong. Language matters, and always will. In fact, it is harder to say more with fewer words, and doing so in a pithy and grammatically correct way will always win. But remember to keep it simple – big words and long sentences are not needed – and they don’t work in the current scenario. To be effective and concise is the key to a memorable piece of content.
Stick to the rules of grammar and basic punctuation. Don’t distract your audience with chat language, SMS lingo and multiple ???? and !!!!. Or my favorite offender, the never ending ……. Some people are surprised to learn that ellipsis (the name for those …) have a definite number of dots (three) and that additional question marks and exclamation points suggest nothing more than agitation and an un-firm grip on the rules of punctuation. In fact, here’s one area where just going with the basics (period, comma, hyphen, single question mark/exclamation point) is quite enough, unless you’re sure you know when to use a semi-colon or colon or the ellipsis.
You will lose your audience if they get lost in the spotting of errors, rather than in the taking in/understanding of your message. If your piece is riddled with spelling errors or words missing their vowels, it’s not about reaching a young millennial audience but rather about losing your entire readership. Poor grammar and spelling errors present a bad picture to your audience (including potential customers and influencers) – if you can’t avoid simple mistakes, can you handle their problems and offer them good solutions, people are likely to wonder. In writing, it’s about uplifting not talking down to, your audience. You aim to share information or entertain or get a point across – and do that that, the old K.I.S.S adage always holds true – just keep it simple. Don’t use jargon just for the sake of it or because you feel your audience will get it, unless it’s a technical discussion and even then, only when required.
And finally, know your audience – not just their industry or background, but their culture too. Again, it is very distracting to most readers when they find unusual or misspelled words. So if you’re writing for a predominantly British English audience, spell and choose your words accordingly. If it’s an American focused piece, then drop the ‘u’s and make word choices that are apropos to them. Giving your writing the right slant, like culturally relevant examples (say a cricketing analogy for an Indian audience, but a baseball one for an American audience) and citing political or industry leaders that make sense to your audience, will help give your writing more of an impact, and make it more interesting to the reader, too.
The pen is mightier than the sword is an old and oft cited quote. One doesn’t have to be in a state of war, however, to heed the basic premise – there is power, perspective and pride that comes with writing well – and it doesn’t take an English major or a Shakespearean scholar to do it. All it needs is the following of some basic, maybe even commonsense practices, to achieve reach and harness the power of the written word. And the power it wields is rich and extensive, as any content marketer will attest to.