We rely on written communication to share information and to prompt action. But once we hit send or publish, our words are out there for all to see. Make a mistake, and on Google they are etched as permanently as a tattoo on your forehead.
It doesn't matter if you are writing business letters, emails, articles or web copy, here are 10 quick checks to review before hitting send.
1) Is your headline powerful? Without a powerful headline or subject line, you won't grab people's attention. Every email, article, website page or business letter needs a headline. Make it clear, enticing and wanting to find out more.
2) Is your content interesting? Ever noticed how people get that "I would rather dig out my appendix with a spoon" look when they are trapped by someone droning on too long about themselves? Your content needs to be about the person reading it and not the person writing it. Unless you are writing a procedure manual for the latest techno gadget, you need to weave stories and touch emotions to make your content interesting to your reader.
3) Does your writing flow logically and clearly? If your ideas jump around like a 2 year old on a sugar high, your readers will get mental whiplash trying to keep up. Build your ideas one after the other to lead your reader to the logical conclusion.
4) Does your tone & formality match your audience? Does the language you are using fit as well as an over-starched shirt at a beach party? Match the formality of your words and tone to the reader. If your readers are all lawyers then you will use different words and tone than if they are all tradies (or teens - where rampant OMGs are optional extras).
5) Have you busted the jargon & acronyms? If you have jargon - get rid of it unless you know for 100% certain that the only readers of your words speak fluent jargon. Every acronym needs to be spelled out at least once. We all have days when even common acronyms are as clear as doctors' handwriting.
6) Is your spelling and grammar correct? Spelling and grammar DOES matter. Always run a spell check over your work and set all program defaults to spell check before printing, publishing or sending. Print your words out and read them back using a ruler to slow your reading pace to line-by-line to help pick up mistakes. While perfection would be nice, everyone makes the odd mistake. The problem comes when odd becomes the norm. Poor spelling & grammar not only turns off customers, it can also affect your search engine results.
7) Are you a good corporate citizen? If you have borrowed a quote, idea or image, included statistics or quoted facts, have you correctly attributed where they came from? Being a good corporate citizen stops breaches of copyright.
8) Do you build trust? Have you included proof that whatever you are saying is true (and double-checked any claims you have made)? Have you included ways to help build trust - testimonials, guarantees, or samples? Make it easy for people to trust you.
9) Are the actions clear? Do you make the next step or actions crystal clear? The clearer you can spell out the actions, the more likely it will be that you get the result you are looking for.
10) Does everything work? Do all links point to the right place (and work when clicked)? Are all attachments actually attached? Are you sending it to the right people?
While these 10 simple checks will help catch most problems, there is one last bonus check to run.
Check with your gut. If your gut is uneasy, go back and re-read your content. Take a break from what you are writing and come back to it later. The most powerful check you can run is your Gutometer. If it feels wrong - it usually is. Don't hit send until you figure out the problem. When you combine a logical review with a gut review, your words will be more effective and deliver a better result.