The Proof is in the Writing

Stephanie Hay, Former Viget

Article Category: #Strategy

Posted on

The importance of correct grammar and snappy text can seem like a low-priority item when blinking, moving visuals, or mind-blowing development options are available to clients. But all the bells and whistles quickly can be forgotten if your content doesn’t convince readers that you are the authority. Why? Aside from understanding that they should keep it concise, easy-to-read, and objective (thanks to Nielsen’s classic research), clients may not know how to write effective text. Often, in lieu of taking advantage of invaluable copywriting services, the project manager must spend hours of research on the client’s dime to craft content about a subject on which she or he is not an expert just so the plan can move forward -- almost as an afterthought to the larger web venture. So you may be asking, “But these entrepreneurs must have convinced at least some people that they are knowledgeable.” Of course -- some of the best businesses are run by brilliant people who are naturals at articulating their expertise. But, translating that same voice to the web can be tricky for several reasons:
  • Grammar: For those who remember at least a portion of the teachings of their fourth grade teacher like my own Mr. Grammer (and I’m not lying about that name), basic syntax and language usage are critical to demonstrating that you are credible. And credibility is vital to success.
  • Usage: Don’t be outrageously embarrassed if you habitually use “over” instead of “more than” or “which” instead of “that,” or you never fully embraced the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Just stop doing it starting … now. Check out Strunk & White’s Elements of Style for a quick lesson or have an expert proofread your work. Don’t be too stubborn to learn.
  • Styles: AP and Chicago are the most popular styles in writing for B2B. They are the styles you see in newspaper writing and throughout the publishing industry. MLA is used mostly in academic writing and is most notably remembered for its reckless use of the serial or Oxford comma (a major debate between English and journalism camps). Pick a style, buy a book (or an online subscription), and keep your site consistent. Or, come up with your own style guide, but write it down and use it in all of your communications.
  • Voice: Pick a formal or conversational voice and go with it. I’m talking about the differences between, “Singading Company provides its customers … ” and, “We offer you ... .” There is no correct answer as to which is more effective. You don’t want to turn off readers by sounding like a stiff; but, you don’t want to sound like you’re wearing paint-stained, cut-off jean shorts and inviting them to a BYOB barbeque. Find your happy medium and keep it consistent.
Be among those site owners who ask for help or, at least, a proofread. Above all else, make learning to use language correctly a priority. It’s the little things that make a difference.

Related Articles