4 Writing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making at Work

by Chris Rhatigan on Sep 19, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Grammar mistsakes

Communication makes or breaks an organization’s success. With the proliferation of fast forms of communication, from Snapchat to instant messaging, many have forgotten the art of crafting an effective written message. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re rolling out a major ad campaign or writing an email to a colleague — being direct and clear is paramount. If you want to ensure that potential customers and employees take what you have to say seriously, you need to avoid these common writing problems.


01. Passive voice

One of the biggest mistakes that has been made in business writing is the use of passive voice.

(See what I did there?)

The readers question is who has made this mistake? Passive voice is when the writer obscures the sentences subject, the part of the sentence that takes action. Active voice is almost always the clearer, more direct way to communicate.

The quick fix is to make sure that the subject is obvious: The CEO’s use of passive voice was a big mistake.


02. Too technical

legal.gifSOURCE: giphy.com

Clear communication means knowing who your audience is. If you’re communicating internally with other software engineers, it’s perfectly acceptable to throw around jargon, as everyone in the conversation will understand what you mean.

But if you’re writing for a general audience, you need to use layman’s terms. You can be sure that potential customers will be scared off when they hear more than a few words they don’t know. Adopting a more conversational tone is a good start for communicating with nonexperts.


03. Wrong tone

Tone is one of those tricky things. Most of the time, we switch tone without even realizing it. We adopt a more relaxed approach when talking with, say, our friends. We use a more formal tone in a cover letter.

One of the times it’s most important to consider tone is in email. We’ve gotten very used to firing off emails or Slack messages quickly. But this can sometimes hinder effective communication. If you respond to someone’s idea in a very brief manner or appear unenthusiastic, the reader might take this as a sign that you’re not interested. Give careful consideration to how the other person will receive your message. Better yet, talk to them in person to avoid any miscommunication.

 

04. Proofreading errors

My badSOURCE: giphy.com

As any journalist on Twitter can tell you, faster communication means more errors. Make sure you read every message you send at least once. Nothing makes you look less professional than an email loaded with errors. Here are some of the top offenders:

  • Effect/affect
  • Missing words
  • There/their/they’re
  • Your/you’re
  • Poor word choice
  • Vague language

By taking simple steps, you can ensure that you’re communicating in a direct and professional manner. Your employees and potential customers will appreciate the effort.

 

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This post was written by Chris Rhatigan

Chris Rhatigan is a freelance writer and editor. He is a former newspaper reporter for The New Haven Register and The Iowa City Press-Citizen. He enjoys playing old video games, studying (and trying to speak) Hindi, and walking his dog on the local trails. He lives in India.