An apostrophe in the wrong place on a road closure notice1 brought in a stream of comments to BBC Radio Berkshire’s Facebook page. Some people objected to the fault, some thought it didn’t matter a hoot, while others started rewriting other parts of the traffic instruction. The main issue here was that the purpose of the message was undermined because of a minor error.
In this case it had no real adverse effect, because the road was obviously closed anyway. But every time a business makes a careless grammatical error then someone is going to be turned off, even though others may just shrug their shoulders. On the other hand, getting wording, spelling and punctuation correct offends nobody. Moreover, the message is much more likely to be taken seriously.
However, it’s also important to remember that fashions change. A post on blog.newswire2 puts this point well. “One thing blogging and good copywriting share is a conversational style, and that means it’s fine to fracture the occasional rule of proper grammar in order to communicate effectively,” which includes the fact that “both bloggers and copywriters routinely end sentences with prepositions.”
This echoes the advice we gave in our recent article “5 Pleas for Content”. The big question is how to engage with some (your prime targets) without alienating others (potential influencers). For instance, a specifier may be quite familiar with a technical term or acronym whereas the chief executive in a customer or prospect company may not be.
A Barry Feldman post in Social Media Today3 supports this argument. “Techno-babble is a major buzz kill. No matter how much you love your industry’s jargon, put a lid on the lingo and can the cliché. Don’t do the dumb-down thing so often recommended. Just be natural.”
Another useful Feldman tip relates to how busy people search and access information on the web. “Readers will hunt for content in full speed skim mode, but get your hooks in them and they’ll slow down and take it all in.” This is a little bit like stopping a TV channel hopper in their tracks with an arresting piece of programming!
Successful engagement via the web, social media and online communications tends to be through content that is direct and conversational, but it also needs to be well phrased and of good grammatical quality.
At BBI Brandboost we always aim to create content that avoids grammatical howlers while being readable and accessible. We focus on its SEO impact, the key audiences it targets and how it will present on smartphones, tablets and other communication devices.
Contact us on 01494 452600, by email or through the Live Chat function on our website for our ideas on giving powerful impact to the written word!
- "Sonning Bridge road sign apostrophe error” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-26351494
- "Importance of grammar as part of communication” http://blog.newswire.ca/wordpress-mu/2011/04/01/the-importance-of-grammar-as-part-of-communication/
- Writing Content:21 Tips for Getting it Right http://socialmediatoday.com/feldmancreative/1611616/right-way-write-content
By Ronnie Gunn
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