Ashleigh Johnston, Consultant

I feel like there is a dangerous trend emerging. I read articles about schools downplaying the importance of teaching the fundamentals of good writing, and communication is getting progressively shorter. Messages confined to 140 characters don’t always allow for the most eloquent prose, Orwellian implications notwithstanding.

With restrictions in place limiting the number of characters and the average person becoming the reporter, it’s easy to see why the basics have fallen by the wayside. I encourage you to take the extra moment to critically read your own writing. Read it out loud, give it to a colleague, but really think about each sentence. Is there something ambiguous about the phrasing? Would a comma, apostrophe or hyphen help clarify, or is an extraneous punctuation mark hindering the message?

 It may seem small but it can have a big effect on the accuracy of your message, re: lets eat grandma. Most likely, you are not asking others to help you commit cannibalism on an elderly woman. With a simple apostrophe for correctness and a comma for clarification, it becomes a delightful invitation for grandma to join you for a meal: Let’s eat, grandma.  

All kidding aside, your message is being sent to any number of people, some whose living is based upon editing and finding these mistakes. If nothing else, it may hurt your credibility if you are not able to demonstrate that you understand the basics of creating a message. Your prepared statement, press releases, media advisories and any of the other various forms of collateral that you send out in to the world are a direct reflection on you. People will most certainly judge you as a professional if your messages are misspelled, grammatically incorrect or missing basic punctuation. Take the extra moment to thoroughly read your writing down to the very last character and please, whatever you do, don’t send messages that advocate the eating of grandmothers.