Monday, March 08, 2010

3 Amateur Writing Mistakes: Can We Agree?

Today's blog entry submitted by Nancy Burgess, our director of Brand CHEMistry.

Do you want to look like an amateur? Of course not! Nobody does. And although you may not be a professional writer, chances are, if you’re a professional, you need to write professionally. Executive summaries, meeting reports, white papers, proposals, strategy plans, and yes, even e-mails, are opportunities for you to shine—or not.

Here are 3 tips to help you get your writing in agreement and avoid amateur mistakes that will cause your readers (boss, colleagues, etc) to trip over your words.

1.      Choose a voice.

Are you writing in the first person, second, or third person? Singular or plural? Choose one and stick to it. For example, this blog is written in the familiar second person, or “you.” But often third-person objectivity is called for in professional writing. If so, don’t switch midstream to the “you” or “we” voice.

Not sure about voice? Here are a few examples that might make it clearer.

First person singular:  I write about me. (pretentious!)
First person plural:    We write about us. (“we’re on the same team”)
Second person:  The writer speaks directly to you. (familiar)
Third person:   Professionals write about being professional. (formal)

2.      Choose a tense. 

Are you writing in the present tense? Past? Future? Pick one and stick with it. Switching between tenses can confuse your readers.

3.      Get your subjects and pronouns in agreement. 

A company is an “it”–not a they. Likewise, a person is a he or she, not a they. If a pronoun (he, she, it, they) is used as a subject of a sentence it refers to the subject of the previous sentence.

Example: The sales reps sold the products. They were plastic. (Really? Plastic reps?)
Example: Quality and value are important to your brand. It matters. (Which? The quality or the value? Or did the writer mean the brand?)

Make sure your voice, tense, and pronouns are in agreement, and your writing will appear more polished—and so will you.

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