How many times do you read a newspaper headline and cringe at the spelling mistakes, or marvel at the fact that typos and punctuation errors made it past the editor? Of course, we expect the news to be presented to us in impeccable English. But what about the marketing communication we receive on a daily basis? The blogs we read? The social posts? Is it okay for your marketing message to be any less impeccably presented?
The quick answer is a resounding NO! Because if your communication is anything less than exemplary, then you’re sending the wrong message. Sure, these are high standards, especially for the globalised world we live in. But why shouldn’t your customers expect the best? Especially if you expect them to purchase your merchandise, use your service, or buy into whatever it is you’re selling.
Where It Counts
Newspapers, magazines and other such publications are placed on a language pedestal. They employ trained, professional writers and editors. So we expect them to be able to deliver a story in decent English. But I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t also expect decent English from any professional communication.
And yes, this should apply to any platform of communication. If you’re sending a marketing email or communicating with your clients (or potential clients) in any way, use good English. From Facebook and Twitter to blogs, emails and even WhatsApp messages – your engagement with your clients sends a message. You need to make sure it’s the right one.
The Right Marketing Message
But how do you ensure this? Especially when English isn’t your native language, or simply isn’t your strong suit. Here are some common mistakes you don’t want to make, and some suggestions for how to improve your communication.
It happens – you type too quickly and don’t notice the typo. Even when you read through what you’ve written, you might miss the mistake. The big problem here is consistently misspelt words – if you don’t how to spell a word, Google it! You can be sure that at least some of your readers will know how to spell it, and they’ll be wondering why you didn’t take the time to find out.
Words that shouldn’t be there
You read through your work, think ‘Oh, let me change that line’ and you forget to delete something else. Or you start to write something and change your mind, leaving half of the original sentence behind. Sure, it happens. But it can create a bad impression – it is a little sloppy, after all.
You don’t need an exclamation mark after every sentence. If you must use them, do so sparingly and where it counts. You do need full stops though. At the end of every sentence. Punctuation can change the meaning of what you’re communicating to your audience, so it needs to be done properly. I bet you’ve seen this one before, but it makes my point:
“Woman: without her, man would be lost.” or “Woman without her man, would be lost.”
Double meanings and Innuendos
In the marketing business, getting your meaning across is key. The wrong meaning can be detrimental to both your campaign and your product. Ambiguity, double meanings and innuendo need to be used with extreme caution.
Insinuating that a certain skin color, or gender, or religion is better (or worse) isn’t acceptable. Derogatory sexual connotations, or any belittling of someone else, isn’t acceptable. After all, can you afford for your marketing communication to send the wrong message?
We often wonder how big products can make these mistakes. Surely someone, somewhere along the marketing chain, realized the message could be misinterpreted? But smaller companies and products, or individuals working for or associated with a company or product, also need to practice caution. You can’t take to Twitter with inappropriate jokes or statements and hope that the world won’t take notice.
Things that just don’t make sense
Have you ever had to read a line, then read it again, and again, until you think you understand what it means? Giving your readers a brainteaser can be an effective tool to engage them. But not when it comes to communicating your message.
Personally, if I have to read something more than once, just to figure out what it means, I tend to move on. This leaves me feeling frustrated – why over-complicate something? Why use so many words when one would do? I simply don’t have the time to wade through long-winded overly-technical explanations when they don’t add anything meaningful.
Creating the right marketing message is what we’re after. But how do we go about avoiding these common pitfalls? To start with, it helps to have someone else read your work. Of course, this may not be possible for things like social media posts. But it’s a definite must-do on your blog posts, webpages and any other long-form content. Ask someone to check for basic errors, but also to read deeper, looking for comments that could be misinterpreted.
Then correct your mistakes. If you don’t pick them up before you publish, don’t panic. You can always fix something when you do notice it. If it’s a Tweet (which you won’t be able to edit) and you’ve just published it, delete and repost. If something that you’ve published has caused offence, own it and (if you need to) apologize or explain. You may also want to remove the offending post.
Using words like ‘And’ to start a sentence, or getting creative with your punctuation, really isn’t the norm, but it can be effective, or just sound right. Playing up double meanings and innuendos is another effective creative tool. Personally, I don’t like it when words are misspelt on purpose (I don’t think it’s gr8) but again, it can make an impact. But if you’re going to employ these tactics, do it sparingly and save them for when you want to make a point.
Remember, for the most part, readers don’t want to wade through long, complicated sentences. They don’t want to see glaring errors. They don’t want to have to figure out whether they should be offended or not. The essence of effective online communication is ease: easy-to-read, quick-to-understand, simple but powerful communication. So make sure your marketing message says the right thing.