How much of your communication is conducted online? In this digital era, businesses educate and inform their audiences via email, blogs, website content and social media. It’s a world where bite-sized information is king.
Yet, it’s a world where it’s easy for businesses to become a little too lax when it comes to what they write. Anyone can publish vast amounts of information on the internet, so it’s more important than ever that you write consistently.
Why? Because people judge you by what you write. Your writing speaks volumes about your business. Sloppy, inconsistent writing reflects poorly on your professionalism. But consistent and concise writing demonstrates that you and your business are committed to quality. And this nurtures your audience’s desire to work with you.
Having your own writing style also makes life easier for you. No matter whether you’re writing an email or an e-book, having a consistent style of writing – basically, the rules you set for yourself – saves you time. You’re not constantly wondering if you’re wording something correctly or losing your audience in translation.
Here are six tips for how you can create consistency in your business writing:
1. Australian vs American English
If you’re an Australian business, I suggest you use Australian English! This means using metre instead of meter, centre instead of center, and organisation instead of organization. The spell check function in Word is insufficient when it comes to proofreading Australian English, as it usually defaults to American English. You’ll need to read through your writing yourself, or hire a proofreader to do it for you. Of course, if you’re writing solely for an American audience, then use American English – but be consistent. Don’t say “organization” in one instance, then “organisation” in another.
2. Correct use of grammar
Brush up on basic grammar and know when and where to use apostrophes. Remember, it is board of directors, not board of director’s. And it’s girls’ school, not girl’s school (unless you’re talking about one girl in particular!), but it’s Mother’s Day, not Mothers’ Day.
Some businesses prefer to capitalise job titles and departments. That’s fine, but remember to be consistent. Don’t write Business Manager some of the time, then business manager other times. Decide which you’d prefer and stick to it. The same can be said for phrases and buzz words. Personally, I would not capitalise buzz words such as start up, corporate synergy or thought leadership, but if you want to, go ahead – but be consistent.
4. Acronyms and abbreviations
Don’t assume your readers know the meaning of every acronym and abbreviation. KPI, CMO, EBITDA, B2C and R&D might seem obvious to you, but they aren’t to everyone. The first time you use an acronym or abbreviation, spell the word or term in full, then put the acronym in parentheses. For example, write “I studied at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT)” in the first instance. Then you can simply use QUT throughout the rest of your text.
Formatting is particularly important for longer-form documents and online material, such as letters, press releases, blogs, e-books and website content. Use the same fonts, size and spacing throughout the document. It’s also a great idea to use the same formatting across all your documents to uphold your business’s branding. If you’re using subheadings, decide whether you want to use upper case or lower case (eg. This is an Upper-Case Subheading; This is a lower-case subheading). Furthermore, be consistent with the style of bullet point you use – don’t swap between bullets and squares, for example. And decide on a footnote style and stick with it.
6. Check your facts
This is so important. If you’re citing research, check you’ve got it right! If you’re quoting someone, check the spelling of their name and check the quote. It may be a quote you’ve heard a million times before, but you still need to check it. You’ll be surprised to discover how often you’ve written “well-known” quotes or facts incorrectly. And chances are, your readers will pick up on these inconsistencies.
Deciding on a writing style for your business takes time, but once you’ve worked it out, it will save you time – and headaches – later on. If you have staff members, ensure they are all familiar with your style to ensure your business maintains clear and professional communication at all times.
Need help with your written material? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.