Janine Lazarus

Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Simple is the new sexy, writes JANINE LAZARUS

I don’t know if you, like me, are mortified by the way people write ‒ or rather, attempt to write ‒ these days. It seems perfectly acceptable to mispell names, to abbreviate words into The Dreaded Text Speak, and then to sign off with an obligatory emoji. My newspaper editors of old are thrashing about in their graves 🙁 (Emoji intended!)

I get that we’re drowning in too much information, desperate to break the surface of the bubbling maelstrom of news and messages that hit us every day at bullet train speed. But that is NO excuse.

Shoddy written communication, laborious waffle pock-marked with ludicrous spelling errors, don’t just reflect badly on the writer, but on the organisation itself.

Who wants to do business with people incapable of stringing a sentence together? If someone has neither the time, inclination nor self-respect to check through an email before stabbing the send button, then neither do I have the time, inclination nor interest to engage with such an individual.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. I shudder reading the newspapers. Front page apologies seem de rigeur. Invariably there is an apology of sort tucked somewhere in the folds of print.

An ageing ex newspaper hound I might be (nevah!! – ed), but an apology over inadequate fact-checking, or the mispelling of an important person’s name used to be a dismissible offence. Copywriting was the better for it. We made the effort. We took care.

In a world of information overload, it has become imperative to master the techniques of short, clear and concise communication.

But today’s ubiquity of electronic communication has forced everyone from accountants to IT interns, to write. In a world of information overload, it has become imperative to master the techniques of short, clear and concise communication.

As “business talk” develops into more direct, sincere communication, so too must business writing become up-front, punchy and persuasive. Simple is the new sexy.

Whether you’re communicating with colleagues, ensuring a paper trail of your work, or touching base with clients, if you don’t write what you mean, you can jeopardise your relationship with the person on the other end of the screen.

Having had the privilege of training people from journalists and editors, to executives and marketing specialists, I see professionals struggling with business writing basics. For some, just a few foundational bricks are missing. For others, the communication chasm yawns wider.

Language barriers, a faulty fingertip, the tired excuse of a creativity block, are just excuses. Why let a wrong word, unstructured sentence, misused punctuation mark, or a hasty mistake slander your reputation or hinder your potential?

Here’s some of what’s missing in today’s business writing environment:

  • The human component
  • Writing that paints a picture
  • Structured content and copy flow
  • Messages matched with an audience.
  • Clear and concise messaging
  • Riveting introductions
  • Proper grammar and spelling
  • Greetings and sign-offs
  • Character. Your authenticity should reflect in your writing.
  • Proper punctuation
  • And – dare I say it – copy that is checked (at least once) before it being sent

Autocorrect, spell-checks, Grammarly and many other smart programmes to fix our writing, make us bone idle. Apps may be able to help with the basics, but only you know what you want to communicate.  So, make the effort. #DownWithTextSpeak