Making a better impression - as easy as 123

Published: 23rd Mar 2016 by Debbie Griffiths
Categories: Learning & Development,  Email marketing,  Wordsmithing,  Training

My inbox has been awash today with unsolicited emails, offering me everything from franking machines and photocopiers to debt collection and vehicle tracking services. They’ve all been sent to an old email address I used the other day, so I must have somehow triggered a database.

The bad news for these companies is that I’ve unsubscribed from all their lists. The only good thing to come out of it is an example that I can use in training.  Here it is, with my suggested edits, followed by three easy ways to improve it:

1. Getting a grip on grammar

Homophones – words that sound the same, but spelled differently – are always something to look out for. Spellchecker didn’t pick up the wrong use of there (place) for their (possession) in our example. It did highlight its (possession) and suggest it’s (contraction), but the author didn’t take heed. Other common contraction errors to note: your (you’re) and their (they’re).

It’s easy to check. Does the sentence makes sense if you replace the single word with two? If it does, use it’s, you’re or they’re. If it doesn’t, use its, your or their.

With less and fewer, it takes less effort than you think to make fewer mistakes. Use fewer with plurals you can count, eg mistakes, people, trips. Use less for abstract things you can’t count, such as time, traffic, difficulty.

2. Editing out waffle

Although we advise workshop participants to write more like they speak, you have to be careful. Contractions are helpful (you are > you’re). But too many filler words and phrases (then, that being said, actually, in order to) can be distracting or irritating in writing. Edit these out and you get to the point much more quickly. And make a better impression.

Original: If you are not able to accept card payments, then its more than likely that you are missing out on a lot of sales. [24 words]

Edited: If you’re unable to accept card payments, it’s likely you’re missing out on a lot of sales.   [17 words]

It’s also an easy way to avoid non sequiturs – something that doesn’t follow on from the point before – like the one at the beginning of the emailer's second paragraph.

3. Thinking about bullets

There are several punctuation errors in the emailer, but using commas, dashes and full stops is a blog in itself. Here, let’s concentrate on bullet points. I’ve written lots about this recently for clients.

The rule with bullets is that there are no set rules, according to Oxford Dictionaries. Their use and punctuation are a matter of corporate house style. Personally, I think bullets look cleaner without the full stops. Although, I am partial to one on the last bullet.

The top tip for bullet writing: start each bullet with the same word group (verb, adjective, noun etc). It makes a much stronger impact, as shown with my suggestion of adjectives for the emailer.  NB: if you start bullets with verbs, make sure they’re all in the same tense.


If you’d like to know more about upskilling your in-house writing talent, give Ideal Worldsmiths a call on 01789 269768. 

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