7 Writing Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Brand
In business writing, the best way to show respect for your readers, and to encourage their trust, is through proofreading and avoiding grammar blunders. Right?
Although I believe it is true, I don’t think it’s the whole truth.
The thing is, occasional typos and grammatical errors won’t make people lose trust in you. And, unfortunately, an error-free writing itself won’t make them automatically trust you, either.
Linguistic mistakes aren’t the only kind of mistakes that afflict business writing. I’ve put together a list of seven things that, in one way or another, destroy personal brands and online businesses. All of them have one thing in common: they dehumanize your writing.
Unlike an occasional spelling or grammar mistake, which only shows your readers that you’re a human being, the things I want to talk about today are costly. If your writing suffers from one or more of the following “diseases”, you stand to lose readers, fans, and clients.
1. Jargon, marketing speech, and corporate tone
Like Seth Godin says in this article, the simple way of getting better at business writing is not doing business writing, but writing like you talk.
Is your writing full of fancy terms like bandwidth, viable, or bounce rate?
I mean, huh?
First thing, I don’t understand you; I don’t believe you understand your matter, either. Experts are able to explain things in a simple way.
Second thing, it’s boooring!
And the last thing, it makes you sound like a second-hand car seller and it makes me – the reader – feel like a potential buyer (or a “prospect”), not like a potential friend. I’d actually prefer the latter.
If you’re a non-native English speaker, your writing might be likely to suffer from marketing speech, not because you aren’t an expert, you’re a bad person, or you can’t write better, but because in English classes, no one ever told you how to find and use your voice. Here’s what to do about it.
2. Fear of being yourself online
Fear of being yourself online may manifest in many ways:
- You overuse buzzwords (see point one).
- You sound like an emotionless robot.
- Your writing is too general.
- Your writing isn’t original: you repeat what has already been said elsewhere, without adding your own standpoint.
- You don’t have a consistent style and voice, and your writing doesn’t communicate any strong message your readers can relate to.
Does this list ring any bells?
In case your fear makes your writing worse or doesn’t let you write at all, I have some tips for you (the article is geared towards non-native English speakers, but the same priniciples apply to anyone).
3. Poor readability
Let’s get more practical.
When it comes to reading on a screen, people are lazy; I’m lazy, too. I don’t mind reading a 300-page long novel with almost no paragraphs, but when I see a 10-line paragraph on the screen, I can’t make myself read it.
Most people are the same.
Here’s how to make your writing more readable:
When writing a longer piece of content, such as a blog post, use short paragraphs (four lines or less), subheads, bullet points, and numbered lists.
Also, in case you’re the one who’s in charge of the web design, make sure the font isn’t too small.
Don’t forget about the basic readability rules at less obvious places, such as emails or social media posts. On the platforms that enable you to do so, use paragraphs, spaces between paragraphs, and shorter sentences to make your writing easier to read.
Occasional typos can't kill your #brand. These seven writing mistakes can.Click To Tweet
4. Poor organization
With each piece of writing, you take your readers from point A to point B. It’s your responsibility to make the journey as smooth as possible, rather than skipping important parts, confusing your readers, and boring them to death by repeating yourself like a cheap tourist guide.
The cure is simple: Have a plan.
Each longer piece of your online content should have its own inner organization. That’s why creating an outline before you start writing and checking its logic again after the post is finished is so important.
Again, subheads, bulleted points, and numbered lists make it easier for your readers to follow your thoughts.
Having a consistent social media presence doesn’t have to mean being online 24/7. Blogging consistently doesn’t have to mean hitting publish at 7 a. m. every Tuesday and Friday (but respect to those who do so!).
For me, consistency is more about your style, the quality of your content, and the big picture of your brand than about timing. Here’s what I mean:
Imagine each piece of your online content as a small piece of a puzzle. Your potential fans find these pieces at various places – in a Facebook group where you answered someone’s question; on Twitter; on someone else’s blog where you wrote a guest post or a comment; or elsewhere. They pick the piece up, look at it, and wonder what the whole picture looks like.
They click the link in your bio and find another piece – your blog or website. They want more, so they subscribe to your newsletter. They get more and more pieces that fit together well and form a nice picture that makes perfect sense. With each piece, they like you more – and trust you more.
In other words, an inner organization isn’t everything. Each piece of content, no matter how big or small, should fit in the big picture of your online presence.
You achieve this by blending your personal style, your message, your voice, and your why into every part of your online presence.
On a more practical level, you do it by including links to other pieces of your content and gently leading your readers where you can serve them best (I’m trying to walk my talk with the marketing jargon here and avoid the word “funnel”).
Randomness has its place in your marketing, too – that’s how you can share more of you. Show us a picture of your child or your doggie; tell us what TV show you’re obsessed with and why, or how your yoga practice is going.
But don’t throw around random pieces of a puzzle that have nothing to do with the big picture.
6. Not knowing your readers
When you write fiction, you have to know your protagonist: his motivation, fears, desires, secret dreams, everything.
When you write for business, your protagonist is your ideal reader/client.
Go and stalk your readers (or potential readers) on social media, talk to them, and connect with them. Stop playing the guessing game, and give them what they really need. They will appreciate it.
As a side effect, you’ll get more organized, you’ll struggle less with what to write about, and it’ll be easier for you to create irresistible content that will transform your followers and readers into clients.
In business writing, your customer = the hero of your story. Click To Tweet
7. Not knowing your why
The last, but the most important point of all is, knowing your why. As Simon Sinek said, people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
What’s your big why?
Find it and use it as the thing that connects all the pieces together. Let your why shine through your words, your design, and every piece of your online presence. The world needs your voice, and in the online world, knowing your why and having a strong message is what makes your voice stronger.
What to do next?
You can humanize your copy today if you do the following:
+ Look at the most important parts of your online presence (it may be your about page, landing pages, and so on) and remove all words and phrases you wouldn’t use when talking to a friend.
+ Split long paragraphs, and make sure the font is big enough to be easily readable.
+ Think about one small thing you can add to make your copy sound more like you. It may be a short personal story, a fun fact, or a “secret” dream. It may be the swear word you wanted to use, but avoided it because of what you’ve been taught at school.