Simple Grammar Tips for Small Businesses
A small-business owner wears many hats. Most days, they wear the hat of innovator and champion. They provide the vision and the passion for their business, advocating for it at every opportunity. But, at the same time, they may also have to don the housekeeping hat, working late into the night to mop the floors.
When a small-business owner puts on the marketing hat to write a news release, they write fervent prose about their product or service. I forget which famous person coined the phrase "Image is everything," but when that news release or printed piece goes out into the world, that piece of content or collateral becomes an indelible image for your company or organization.
For small businesses, an investment in a news release or printed piece represents valuable resources requiring hard-earned money, so here are five grammar tips a small business should review before sending that news release or printed material out into the world.
Watch out for typos
Are you really good at pointing out typos in someone else's work? Take a close look at your own. PR Newswire's Customer Content Services team catches hundreds of typos per month. Pay particular attention to the headline. Typos in headlines are a lot easier to miss when you have your headline in all capital letters. Read through it carefully, change the casing around to see if something jumps out at you differently. Run spellcheck.
Watch out for inconsistencies
The devil is in the details. Read through the document again. Double check names of products or people to ensure they are spelled consistently (and correctly) throughout the release.
Check your punctuation
Here are my big three punctuation misses: 1) missing comma before the end of a quote; 2) missing punctuation at the end of a sentence or paragraph; 3) proper placement of apostrophes when trying to show possession. For some additional reference material, see my posts on "Punctuation Saves Lives" (parts I and II).
Use common language
I offer this tip specifically if the small business manufactures a specific B2B product. We have seen hundreds of releases about products from small businesses that were written so heavily with jargon, it was difficult to determine what the product actually did or for whom the release was being written. Keep the technical information relevant and directed to the specific audience you are trying to reach.
Use spellcheck wisely
Spellcheck can be such a frenemy. It can save you from embarrassment or set you up completely. By far, the most common example I see is the use of the word "manger" instead of "manager." Spellcheck has a cruel sense of humor with this word and others (like, "public" missing the requisite "l"), so make sure that you take those extra few minutes to read through one more time. Reading out loud helps.
Taking some extra time to make sure you have cleaned up grammatical problems in your work might seem tedious, but will pay dividends down the road. Before someone considers purchasing your product or service, a potential customer will form an instant opinion about your company or organization based on the material they have available (your website, seeing a printed ad, reading your company blog, or a news release). If "image is everything," making sure you have a strong grasp on grammar will ensure that your message and image is portrayed in the right light.
Written by Catherine Spicer, manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.
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