Columnist . Joe Zeigler
When you don’t write it right.
The Perils of Publishing.
“Writer” is one of the many hats you wear. On any given day, every microbusiness owner needs to communicate effectively in writing – from texts and emails, to proposals and contracts, to a brochure or website.
Writing happens to be core to my business. As such, in this space I hope to share thoughts you find useful when wearing your writer cap.
That’s how this microbiz thing works. People come to me when they need writing expertise, and I know I have a community of individuals I can access when I need expertise in other areas. Like proofreading.
Proofreading and writing are separate, yet inseparable, disciplines. Writers intend to convey information, ideas or instruction in words. Proofreaders ensure the written words actually communicate what the writer intended. To achieve this, proofreaders must apply appropriate rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation, while being sensitive to style, tone and content.
Writers make mistakes. Proofreaders save our butts.
Sometimes, as with this column, I act as both writer and proofreader. That’s when I get in trouble.
Case in point: The first edition of this column was introduced under the title “Writer’s Bloc.” After congratulating myself for having crafted such a clever moniker, I submitted my piece. Not until I saw the published column did it occur to me that its title was absurd, and that it conveyed a message contrary to my intent.
• The absurd: A “bloc,” by definition, is a group or coalition. As such, a bloc cannot be formed with a singular writer. A bloc requires a plurality.
• The intent: Recognizing that all microbusiness owners are, at times, writers, my objective is to use this column to lead a discussion on the topic of writing. I cannot have a discussion with myself. This one includes you.
Heretofore, this column shall be entitled “Writers’ Bloc.” Plural possessive. Not singular. Welcome to the coalition. (This makes last month’s column kind of a collector’s edition. Like that postage stamp with the upside-down airplane.)
Enough of my mistake. Now, back to you.
Unless you are President of a big business, you probably don’t have the luxury of proofreaders looking over your shoulder, assessing word-for-word
every communiqué in real time. Fortunately, readers of your texts, emails and letters are generally forgiving. They will often let you know if a message is confusing or ambiguous, presenting the opportunity to clarify and beg forgiveness.
However, readers have higher expectations for the veracity and integrity of other communications content. When perusing the websites or marketing materials of microbusiness owners, I am often floored by the volume of grammatical, spelling punctuation errors they contain. Readers may dismiss a typo or two in a 50-word email, but on a website’s home page errors reflect a lack of
professionalism and attention to detail. Worse, a prospective client is unlikely to provide this feedback. They’ll just move on to a competitor’s site that better meets their expectations.
Learn from the feedback your clients and colleagues provide on your daily communications. And, for materials that need to stand the test of time, employ a second set of eyes (and perhaps third and fourth…) to ensure you’ve clearly expressed your ideas, information and instruction.