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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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terms

Don’t distract with a misplaced capital

Do you find the use of capital letters bewildering or frustrating?

girl and megaphone distracting a boy trying to read

Distractions made it hard to read – and poor grammar can be a distraction

Some people struggle with the questions ‘does this word need a capital letter?’ and others use so many unnecessary capital letters that just frustrate readers – excess capital letters actually make text harder to read (and more time-consuming to write, too!)

Poor capitalisation distracts

Some competition terms I recently read confused me because of a poor capital letter use. By adding a capital letter mid-sentence, I thought it was missing a full stop and a new sentence had started  – but reading it as a new sentence didn’t make sense.

 Entry is open to all Client bookings made with…

What do you think – did the capital C for client distract you?

In my mind, if you have to reread a sentence to understand it, the writing has failed. Good writing is easy to read and lets the reader focus on the message, not the words. {Obviously it’s different if you reread it because you can’t understand a difficult concept!}

Presumably, lack of clarity in something like competition terms or a contract has potential legal implications.

 

 * Photo courtesy of 123RF

Knowing the right terms improves clarity

Reviewing my newsletter from July 2010, I was reminded of the importance of getting your terminology right when writing – thanks to an example of poor writing from someone who considers herself to be a guru.

Clarity vs confusion

As a business, you have a message to get across to people which hopefully will lead to some action which helps your business.

A clear message will be more effective at engaging and inspiring action than a confusing message.

If someone doesn’t understand the message, they will give up and probably think little of your business. If someone misunderstands your message, you will waste time fixing misconceptions and possibly having to pay the price to rectify things.

Knowing the right terminology

Other than through dumb luck, it is next to impossible to give a clear message if you use terms you don’t understand yourself.

Instructions and manuals, vs directories and lists

Instructions and manuals, vs directories and lists

The poor example in my newsletter mixed directory and manual. I go to a directory to get details (such as a phone number of address) and a manual for instructions or procedures. The words are not interchangeable.Getting words right is important to communicating your business message. This is the basis of my Monday Meanings – to help people understand words (although it would never occur to me to define manual and directory to avoid them being confused!)

Your reaction

So how do you react when someone confuses a message through poor word usage?

Are you willing to spend time trying to figure out what a confusing message actually means, or do you give up and go elsewhere?

Scroll down and let us know what you think!

It’s still one point

When writing a list of ideas or tips, it is worth making sure each one has enough value to be in the list – it is better to read a short list of valuable ideas than a long list of mostly junk surrounding a few good ideas.

Even if you’re calling your list something like “top ten tips” or “101 things to do with cheese”, don’t get tempted to make the list longer just so the title seems more impressive. Your credibility will suffer if the list doesn’t provide the help or interest people were looking for.

What I find even more annoying is a list of say 20 things which actually turns out to be a list of 10 or 15 things. I’m not sure if these writers are deliberately trying to plump out a short list or don’t realise how repetitive they are being, but either way it wastes my time and I don’t like it.

Here are the common ways I’ve seen people repeat list items…

  • giving the same point in different terms. For example, “use good spelling and grammar” and “don’t misspell words or use bad grammar” as two separate points – obviously, they mean exactly the same thing!
  • making the same point in different words so it almost seems a different point. For instance “remember to market your existing customers as well as potential customers” is really the same as “don’t neglect your current customers in word of mouth campaigns” in a list of ideas for treating customers well
  • breaking one point into two points – neither point fully makes sense alone, but if they are long enough they can look acceptable

Are there are other common repetitions or problems with lists that you have come across? What has been your reaction to these annoyances?

Happy writing!