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The sales letter you can’t put down…the advertising copy that makes you want the product…the resume that prompts you to call the job candidate this second…All these are examples of EXCEPTIONAL business writing. While you certainly know good writing when you see it, can you write with the same pizzazz the professionals use to hold your attention for pages on end?
WHY WRITING STYLE MATTERS
The fact is that your prospects, your clients, and even the media JUDGE you and your business based on the written documents you put out to the world. Sales letters riddled with errors, advertising copy that is boring, and media announcements that ramble on for pages send the message that you’re careless, uncreative, and possibly incapable of delivering quality work. People want to do business only with those individuals they perceive as knowledgeable and competent. Your writing is the perfect opportunity to showcase your PROFESSIONALISM and win the deal.
REVIEW YOUR WORK
Many people think they have to be a professional editor or journalist to write effectively. Not true. In fact, there are a number of SELF-EDITING techniques professional writers use to catch embarrassing errors that could cost them the job. Use these guidelines as a way to proofread your own writing so you can make all your printed materials reflect the professionalism you display in every other business activity.
REREAD YOUR WORK OUT LOUD
After they write a document, most people reread it to themselves to scan for errors. While this is certainly a good start, it should not be your sole means of proofreading. After scanning the document silently, read it out loud and really LISTEN to the words you’re saying. Does your tongue stumble over a block of words? Do certain phrases sound funny or out of place? Is a sentence so long that you’re gasping for breath by the time you reach the period? Do your own words put you to sleep? All these are signs that a section of your document needs some tweaking.
When you read a document to yourself, you’re relying on only your eyes to catch writing errors. However, when you read a document out loud, you’re activating your sense of hearing and forcing your brain to CONCENTRATE on each individual word rather than visual cluster. Now you not only see missing commas, incorrect words, or subject-verb disagreements, but you can also HEAR when something sounds out of place. When you hear as well as see what you’re writing, you can catch more errors and produce a written document that holds the reader’s attention.
RELY ON YOURSELF, NOT YOUR SPELL CHECK
The spell check feature on your computer is both a blessing and a hindrance to writing success. While spell check can locate and correct blatantly misspelled words, it can’t catch those words that are spelled correctly but used INCORRECTLY. You know the words: right / write, meet / meat, you’re / your, there / their / they’re, no / know, plus a host of others.
AN EASY FIX
As you reread your document, both silently and out loud, pay special attention to those problem words and read out your CONTRACTIONS. So if your text reads, “Please know which word you’re supposed to use,” proofread it as “Please know which word you are supposed to use.” This way you’ll be able to catch those instances when you write, “You’re writing skills are impeccable,” but really mean “Your writing skills are impeccable.”
START FROM THE END
The more you read something, the more your brain begins to MEMORIZE it. If you reread a document over and over, you eventually get to the point where your brain knows what’s coming next, so your eyes go into SCAN mode. While you think you’re really reading the document closely, your brain is only picking up key words and drawing on memory to fill in the blanks. So even though your 50th read-through confirms that your document is error-free, your reader (who has never seen the document before) will quickly spot careless errors you scanned right over.
GO OUT OF ORDER
When you feel that you’ve read your document too many times and can’t get past scan mode, mix things up for your brain. Read the LAST sentence of your document first just to check for things like sentence structure, grammar, spelling, etc. Then read the sentence above the last and do the same. Pull sentences out of the text at RANDOM and check for errors. By treating each sentence as a stand alone unit rather than as part of a flowing document, your brain will perk up and not be anticipating the next memorized line. You’ll catch more errors when you look at the individual elements of your document instead of focusing on the overall content.
BETTER WRITING NOW
Competition in business is fierce these days. Don’t let a misspelled word or incorrect sentence kill the deal. Practice the tricks of self-editing so every written document you produce showcases your KNOWLEDGE, competence, experience, and professionalism -- unclouded by needless and easily corrected ERRORS. Before you know it, your prospects and clients will be unable to resist your written messages, and your company’s profits will soar.
Dawn Josephson, Professional Writing Stylist™, is President and founder of Cameo Publications, an editorial services and self-publishing firm. She helps professional speakers, authors, and business leaders transform their ideas into written materials that entertain and inform audiences worldwide. Contact her at 717-651-5354 or . Visit her website at www.CameoPublications.com.
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