“Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control.” Jeffrey Gitomer (American author & business trainer)
Good Grammar in Business Communications
Regardless of the type of business you own, it is likely that you still rely a great deal on the written word to put your message across. In this media driven age, written business communications can take many shapes and forms; from the humble memo, letter or fax to a tender, proposal, application or report; not forgetting emails, websites, blogging and other social media communications. Your company’s written documents may include marketing materials, responses to customer enquiries, reports to clients and other stakeholders. The list is endless..
There are many reasons why you should make sure that your company’s written material is grammatically correct; that spelling mistakes are eliminated and that the correct punctuation is used. Some of these include the following:
- First impressions matter: You want to make sure you come across as the business professional you are. You want to give your readers a good first impression. Not only do you want to get their attention, but you also want to earn their respect. Good spelling, correct grammar and the appropriate use of punctuation will give them more confidence in the person (or the company) communicating with them.
- Good reputation: Similarly, clients and suppliers are more likely to trust a company that communicates clearly and correctly. The use of proper grammar will help maintain your business’ credibility and reputation as a professional, trustworthy enterprise that views all of its interactions with its customers and traders as equally important.
- Avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding: Incorrect spelling or a lack of punctuation may create confusion. Your audience may be left guessing what you are trying to say. Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes may also change the meaning of your message, which might result in misinformation. Some readers may get back to you to clarify, others might not; which, in the case of new prospects / customers, is something you want to avoid. You do not want poor grammar to cost you business opportunities.
- Make your communications more effective: It is likely that you do not want to distract your readers from the message you are trying to convey by giving them grammar and spelling mistakes to take note of. Also, such errors make your writing harder to read. You wouldn’t want to create any distraction in your audience’s mind, particularly if you are trying to get them to take some form of action – such as following a hyperlink on your website or signing up for a service.
- Reduce the risk of costly lawsuits: In this day and age where most businesses operate on a global basis with teams of people scattered across every corner of the planet, written communications – particularly emails and other instant messaging applications – have become an essential part of their operations. Grammatically incorrect documents may convey misinformation, misguiding the reader into taking the wrong action or their reaction to it. This, in turn, may leave your business open to costly legal action, on the basis that the information provided was false or misleading in some way – maybe simply because of some typographical errors or other mistakes in the final communication.
- Keep your business’ competitive edge. Fact: Bad grammar affects business. Full stop. Research has shown that many customers would hesitate in making a purchase from a website that has obvious grammar and spelling errors. Competition is tough; you only have a short time to impress a potential new customer (particularly online). You do not want to present your products or services in an unfavourable light or make your readers lose interest with poor grammar. Instead, you want to gain and maintain your readers’ trust and attention at all times. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is likely to give your company a definite advantage over less articulate rivals.
- Increase productivity: Many businesses rely on written guidelines (for instance, memos or emails) among team members. Correct spelling and grammar will help your employees understand your instructions better, thus avoiding any confusion or misunderstanding about what is expected of them. The result will be less time wasted trying to work out poorly worded instructions and more time spent doing the job. This may also help to maintain harmonious working relationships between colleagues, as a result of better and clearer communication.
The importance of good grammar in business communications is definitely something that all companies should keep in mind, regardless of their size or the industry they operate in. The first and most basic check should be the use of your computer, tablet or smart phone spellchecking facility; however, you should not rely only on spellcheckers to catch mistakes, as they will not pick up the wrong word being used (eg, ‘there’ instead of ‘their’).
Proofreading your document is essential; either do it yourself or better still, ask a colleague to help – it is always a good idea to have a fresh pair of eyes to look at what you have written. The best way to proofread a document still is the old fashioned pen and ruler over a printed copy; other ways include reading it backwards or reading it aloud.
Taking a break and revisiting your work after you’ve finished writing may also improve your ability to spot mistakes. This also gives you a chance to improve on it, correcting wording and punctuation as you go along. This is particularly important for emails, where you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Equally so, it makes sense that employees who are in charge of business communications are proficient in their job. They should be provided with the right training and support; in addition, there are a number of websites which offer tips on business writing and which can be referred to.
Finally, you may wish to use the services of a copywriter or a consultant to write, check and proofread your written material (for example, if you are writing for a new website or a marketing brochure).