rganizations are consistently distributing messages to engage their audience. Mistakes such as typos, grammatical errors, lack of focus, and unclear messaging can make it even more difficult to get your intended meaning across.
Crafting messages that inform, provoke thought, and encourage audiences with a call-to-action can be a daunting task. If you’re ready to create written content that moves, energizes and teaches your audiences in the most effective, concise, and efficient way, then make sure you avoid these top ten writing mistakes.
Typos, Poor Punctuation, and Grammatical Errors
Incorrect punctuation, misspelled words, and using “their” instead of “they’re,” tells the reader that you don’t really care about what you have to say. Proofread your work at least twice, and if you need to, hire an editor so you can present the cleanest copy possible.
Overuse of Buzz Words
Corporate speak such as “innovative” and “revolutionary” does little to inform readers of the necessity of your product, service, or the information you want to communicate. Only write what you need to include and be as specific as you can be, going so far as to describe what you mean.
An email geared towards securing additional donors is going to have a different tone, style, and purpose than an email sent to a group of people who signed up to volunteer for a fundraiser. Always keep your audience in mind when communicating with them. Choose language, topics, and points that speak to them.
If you mail a brochure and one page has bold headings and the next page doesn’t, your audience will more than likely pay attention to your unintentional design choice versus the subject matter of the document. The same goes for writing: make sure you stick to past or present tense. Make sure everything—from design to writing style and formatting—remains stable throughout.
Say what you need to say in the least words possible.
A Dull Introduction
The first few sentences of your communication should intrigue the reader, let them know why they need to read it, and if possible, tell them what they need to do with it. Try to paint a picture for the reader by describing a scenario that they can apply the information to. Create relevancy from the start.
Improper or Lack of Citation
Always cite your sources. If you mention data, a quote, or any other significant piece of information in your piece, let the reader know where you retrieved it. Giving credit not only respects others’ work, but it gives the reader an opportunity to dive deeper into the subject if they wish to.
Every piece of writing should have a purpose or goal. This means that your communication should ask the reader to do, buy in to, accept something, or change based on your message. Communication without a call-to-action is an opportunity missed.
Don’t think that you’re going to have an accurate, informational, interesting, and effective document in two hours. It takes time to come up with an idea, choose the facts you want to include, determine how the communications will be formatted (list versus blog post, interview versus report), then actually write, edit, and proofread it. Give yourself enough time to complete each step. The more work you do in the beginning, the better off your project will turn out in the end.
Lack of Headings, Subheadings, or Bulleted Points
One paragraph after another, after another, without any breaks, can overwhelm readers with information. Instead of an endless document, try breaking the details up with bold headers, subheadings, a list with bullet points, charts, or graphics to allow readers to skim or easily digest the communication.
Creating communications that enlighten, provoke thought, or instruct readers is a time consuming, sometimes difficult, yet rewarding process. It is nice to witness the fruits of your labor in the form of new donors or supporters, a successful event or fundraiser, heightened organizational awareness, or new business. Remember all of these tips the next time you need to connect with one of your audiences. All of your communications—from pamphlets to business cards and newsletters—ultimately represent your organization’s mission, values, abilities, and professionalism, so make sure they say what you want them to say about you, your employees, your advocates, and the work you do.
Sharee Silerio is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, Film and TV writer-producer, and blogger. When she isn’t creating content for The Root, Curly Nikki or The St. Louis American, she enjoys watching drama/sci-fi/comedy movies and TV shows, writing faith and self-love posts for her blog SincerelySharee.com, relaxing with a cup of chai tea, crafting chic DIY event décor, and traveling. Review her freelance portfolio at ShareeSilerio.com then connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @ShareeSilerio.