Has your copy got style?

  • By Kelly Owen
  • 09 Jun, 2017

How your business is presented in writing can be likened to dressing for an important interview. Dress smartly and you portray an image of professionalism and trust; dress down, however, and confidence in your abilities won’t be as positive.

Most businesses have brand guidelines which help them to ensure their corporate identity is clear and recognisable to the outside world. However, not as many extend this principle to their written word. Developing house rules regarding text will help to ensure any copy produced by your company is consistent, correct and, therefore, professional. A freelance proofreader will absorb your style guide and apply its principles to everything they check for you.

A text style guide needn’t be complicated; the complexity largely depends on what type of copy you produce. A magazine publisher will need to establish some rules about how titles are written, and the use of headers, bold, italic and superscript, for example. If you publish reports or documents of a more technical nature, it’s likely your style guide will need to be more detailed. Then there are the ‘basics’, such as the use of capitals, hyphenation and punctuation of lists and bullets — surprisingly, even here, every company’s preferences are different!

No matter what size your business, if you produce text then it is likely that a style guide will be beneficial to you. If you don’t yet have a style guide then we can develop a personal guide that addresses the needs of your business. Ultimate Proof can build on the basics, in terms of punctuation and spelling, and create a clear and practical guide for your company that can be given to anyone who might produce copy for you. If everyone is ‘singing from the same style sheet’ to start with, you will not only reduce the overall risk of error, but will save time and money on proofreading and amends.

By Kelly Owen 21 Nov, 2017

In this fast-paced world, mistakes are understandable, but failure to edit and proofread your business e-mails can lead to catastrophic results . Typos and other errors in e-mails can make you seem unprofessional and careless. However, there are steps that you can take to proofread your e-mails more effectively. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to keep errors out of your online communications right now.

1.       Type the recipient’s name correctly

One of the reasons people are so irritated when they see their names misspelt in e-mails is because it gives the impression that the sender does not care about them. You may wish to conduct a Google search, check your business records or look on a business network such as LinkedIn to ensure you have typed their name correctly. If you’re still unsure about how to spell their name after that, don’t include it in your message.

2.       Use the right tone

If your e-mail doesn’t sound sufficiently warm or friendly, you may alienate the recipient. It’s a wise move to read the message that you are sending back to yourself two or three times, to check you are happy with the tone. Imagine you are the recipient of the e-mail while reading it back, especially if you’re talking to clients, customers or employees. Think of ways you can make your request sound friendlier.

3.       Are you conveying your message correctly?

Does your e-mail include valuable information about a news story, promotion or event? Make sure you haven’t assumed too much knowledge on the part of the reader. Have you left out anything they can’t be expected to know, such as who you are and what services you provide? Similarly, make sure you are not providing irrelevant information. You may risk losing the interest of your recipient if your message isn’t clear or concise. Write short sentences and use small words, unless you are using terminology the reader is likely to be familiar with – they may only have a few moments to read and digest your e-mail.

4.       Choose your verbs carefully

To avoid using the same words too often in your message, swap words you have typed multiple times for more interesting or even more powerful alternatives. If you can cut words out from sentences without compromising the meaning, consider doing so.

5.       Proofread repeatedly – can the message wait?

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply scan your text once before sending it. Go through your message slowly three or four times, focussing on each sentence, to ensure your grammar and spelling are correct. Spell-checkers can help you, but they can overlook errors from time-to-time. You may even wish to wait a while before sending your e-mail, especially if it contains sensitive information which could generate an angry or otherwise emotional response. If necessary, leave your message in your drafts folder and wait a day or two before checking it again and releasing it. Also, drafting an email on your smartphone is fine, but make sure you finish and send it on your computer to avoid embarrassing predictive text errors creeping in.

If you'd like to know more about improving your writing, our FREE 10 Top Tips for Writing Well  provides useful advice to help you improve your general business writing skills. 
By Kelly Owen 06 Sep, 2017
This free guide contains ten ways in which you can improve your online content.
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