What are the biggest writing errors found in business letters, memos, texts etc.?
I receive messages daily where I wonder if these business people ever went to school. I am a writer but I still need help from an editor, yet I wonder of people think the same about my business letters.
As both a longtime writer, editor, and business professional, I can share that the biggest offenders I see are your/you're, its/it's, and their/there/they're. Granted, some of these (and other more egregious errors) occur due to autocorrect, which has confounded me on more than one occasion :-) But when someone who ought to know the difference writes, "Since your my best client, I want to offer you..." it really grates.
For the benefit of those who may be reading this to discern the correct usage of the above:
your is possessive: I like your shoes. (Shoes belong to person addressed.)
you're is a contraction of you are: You're the best friend ever.
its is possessive: My dog keeps chasing its tail.
it's is a contraction of it is: It's supposed to rain today.
their is possessive: How do your parents like their retirement community?
there refers to position or place: We went there to visit Bob and Dana.
they're is a contraction of they are: They're the nicest people I've ever met.
Hope this is useful for all!
Scott, we create a series of webinars for a company that we handle the marketing for and one of our speakers talks about copywriting. Here are some links to a 4 part series from copywriting expert Debra Jason. Hope these help!
Part 1 - http://www.shweiki.com/blog/2015/04/5-copywriting-mistakes-that-could-cost-your-business-money-not-knowing-the-product/
Part 2 - http://www.shweiki.com/blog/2015/04/5-copywriting-mistakes-that-cost-your-business-money-not-knowing-the-target-market/
Part 3 - http://www.shweiki.com/blog/2015/04/5-copywriting-mistakes-that-cost-your-business-money-words-missing-the-mark/
Part 4 - http://www.shweiki.com/blog/2015/04/5-terrible-copywriting-mistakes-that-cost-your-business-cash-no-social-proof-or-call-to-action/
The shortest answer, in my opinion, is time. Most people don’t account for leaving time to review content - whether it’s an email, a business letter, marketing materials, etc. In our digital and instant gratification world, they write, scan and hit send or post.
I am a writer and an editor. And sometimes I feel like I need a copy editor, editor, and proofreader to make sure my content is good to go. I move quickly and at times my mind moves quicker than my fingertips on my keyboard. If I’ve been at it for a while, my eyes see what should be there not what is there.
I think it begins with the small things – like inconsistency. That must be one of my biggest pet peeves in business communications. Sometimes, a date follows AP Style; other times it does not. I mean that’s about as easy as it gets when reviewing a document.
From text messages to social media, we’re so use to using shortcuts to communicate is it any wonder it’s leaked into our professional lives? I worked with a friend for years who would hammer me every time he spotted an error in our personal communications. I use to roll my eyes when he began the lecture but a dozen years later I am so grateful he took the time to do it.
I am not perfect and I’ve had my fair share of egg on my face from a quick review but I always account for time to review.
I recommend some recreational reading on spelling, grammar and punctuation to give you a refresher on correct usage so that you can edit yourself. Three great books I enjoyed - and even laughed through - were "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss, "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser, and of course the classic Strunk & White Elements of Style, which is to writing composition what a dictionary is to spelling.
You can always compose anything you're writing in Word first, and use Grammar Check before pasting it in where you need it to an email or whatever. Or use the Grammarly app to check most things you're drafting, in any application.
Having been a professional writer/editor who's spent over 26 years working in the corporate world, I have more examples of bad writing than I could ever possibly list in a short reply. Presumably you're referring to grammatical howlers, but I typically encounter many other types of problem, such as wandering aimlessly between topics and needless verbosity.
For example, I once received an email where the writer was obviously thinking on the page and hadn't bothered to clean up his text afterwards, because the third paragraph began with, "I suppose what I'm trying to say is..." followed by a succinct explanation he'd forced his readers through two paragraphs of guff to reach!
Other problems include cliches, jargon and egocentric writing. For example, here's a bad sales message:
Megasoft produces best-of-breed solutions in the client relationship management (CRM) space, enabling data leverage across an unrivalled range of platforms.
[Reader thinks, "Here we go again, the same buzzword rubbish I've read a thousand times before. No understanding, no empathy, no facts. Who cares what bloated ideas you've got about yourselves and your products? What’s in it for me?"]
Compared with a good sales message:
Finding it hard to keep track of your clients’ details? Need to collate data across platforms? Imagine the time and errors you’d save by aggregating all your client data with one click in an easy-to-use, web-based form. Megasoft’s GoldProspect…
[Reader thinks, "Megasoft understands my problems. GoldProspect is worth a look."]
For more ideas and articles on effective writing, check out my posts on LinkedIn:
Hey Scott. The biggest error made by businesses is writing too much. Customers just want you to get to the point to solve a problem for them. So fluff is out. But flow is still important. As is correct grammar, etc.
I am not looking to answer this question, I want to know from writing experts what are the typical faux pas of business people in writing.