We’re all in a rush. But your copy shouldn’t pay the price. Avoid these three mistakes to write with greater confidence and clarity when crashing on deadline.
PR pros churn out text quickly to keep up with deadlines. Yet the emphasis on speed can result in copy rife with the mistakes and shortcuts often seen in casual online writing.
Here are three of these common mistakes—along with tips for writing quickly without sacrificing quality:
- Misusing Internet slang, emoticons and emojis. It’s easy to slip into casual writing when in a rush. We all do it—whether writing an email or a quick text message.
Internet slang like LOL, emoticons and emojis are examples of “casual writing” he sees moving from online writing to the rest of our written communications.
“Keep these web writing elements to social media posts and texts,” O’Quinn says. “Avoid them in all other business communications. That includes using smiley face emoticons in company emails, because you never know who the email will get forwarded to.”
He suggests using a parenthetical if you want to express a wry aside or an emotion. A (just kidding) parenthetical is more effective and less likely to be misinterpreted by your boss, client or target reporter than
Watch PR Daily’s PR University webinar “How to Write S-H-O-R-T in the Mobile Era” to grab more attention in today’s exploding universe of content.
- Sloppy editing—even in post comments. O’Quinn is disturbed by how many communicators in the “writing business” post articles and comments that have glaring typos, missing words and incorrect punctuation.
He blames this on being in a rush. “Slow down. Don’t write something just to cross it of the list and don’t write thinking you’ll nail it the first time. Instead, look at every word, sentence and post you write as a first draft. Accept that
you’ll need to rewrite it.”
This is a big problem for blog posts. “Bloggers assume that because it’s their blog, they can say or do whatever they want, so they ramble and drift for five paragraphs before telling the reader what the blog entry is about. But you can avoid this kind of unfocused writing by treating your first draft as just that—an iteration.”
- Lack of concrete language. Taking the time to find the right word or phrase will give your writing a winning edge—whether online or otherwise.
One way to do this is to use concrete language that conveys an image and not a concept. For example, “Don’t refer to human and financial capital if what you mean are people and money,’” O’Quinn says.
Similarly, use strong verbs. “Rather than writing, ‘Many writers don’t like criticism,’ write, ‘Many writers bristle at criticism,’” O’Quinn says. “It’s more precise and more vivid. You can visualize the annoyed reaction.”
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Writing coach Ken O’Quinn will share more writing takeaways in the following PR University webinar, “How to Write S-H-O-R-T in the Mobile Era: New Rules for Riveting Releases, Emails and Tweets.”