I really don’t mean to harp on what good writing can do for your business and what bad writing can do to it. But I can’t help it, really. I’ve just spent several hours over two days cleaning up a website for an artists’ boutique. (A disclaimer, my hooked rugs are in the shop; I bartered writing and editing services for space.)
The owner of the boutique wanted me to comb through her website looking for: 1) obvious errors both grammatical and substantive in nature and 2) anything that made her or the shop look stupid. And she put #2 to to me just like that. As a business owner, she knows that her website (and other social media outlets like the boutique’s Facebook page) is often the first thing a customer or, more importantly, a potential customer may see. It might even be the only thing the customer sees if he or she isn’t in Rhode Island (shop’s location) or intends to purchase online. If I see errors and sloppiness on a commercial website, I sure ain’t trusting my credit card to someone no matter what I’ve heard about their business or product!
And that can be a real shame. The boutique is beautiful, filled with colorful art and antiques and jewelry. Much of it is original; all of it is handmade and of a high quality. I’ve been in and heard customers wax poetic about the place and its eye candy. Then they bought stuff.
Here’s the thing, though: I found tons of grammatical errors on the website. Most, however, weren’t the owner’s fault, but that of the artists who had submitted brief artist’s statements. (Shame on them. Their art is their business!) Regardless, the owner is presenting these artist’s statements on her business’s website; she’s responsible for making that website as visually appealing as she’s made her shop. Sloppy writing – it’s not at all pretty. And it’s running rampant on the web, on signs, and in print. Maybe you’ve seen the funny bits passed around on Facebook by the likes of Grammarly and George Takei.
Examples of sloppy business writing I see:
- Unfinished and partial sentences;
- Subjects and verbs not matching;
- Periods outside of quotation marks (as in a quote or in dialogue);
- Commas separating subjects and verbs;
- Lack of punctuation at the end of sentences and in other crucial locations for reader comprehension;
- Sentences that make no sense when read;
- Mixing of past and present tenses, sometimes in the same sentence;
- Really, really l-o-n-g, run-on sentences;
- and so on.
This doesn’t have to happen. If you’re a business or an artist (or a kid in school or someone looking for a job), before you put something written out there, ask someone to take a look at it. Have them make sure it makes sense and that you’ve met the basic requirements of English grammar. Hire someone if you have to. It’s the difference between looking rather smart or rather…stupid.
How does writing quality matter to you? To your business?