Although not recognized by all, skillful writing in the digital age is now more crucial than ever. With only 140 characters to convey an entire message, it’s not difficult for words to lose their meaning or confuse the reader. Misplacing or failing to use a comma can change a sentence’s entire, and sometimes innocent, meaning.
Take, for example, this headline for a feature story about Rachel Ray:
“Rachel Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.”
So Rachel Ray cooks her family and dog? Probably not, but the missing comma in the headline is very misleading.
Examples like this inundate the Internet and can damage a brand’s reputation and credibility.
To help your personal or professional brand, I offer my top five tips for writing on digital platforms.
1. Be Concise
The fewer words you use, the better. This makes your audience more likely to read your message and lessens the chance of an embarrassing mistake. To be more concise, delete unnecessary phrases like “in order to” and use a fifth grade vocabulary.
2. Use Active Voice
Phrase your sentences actively so that the subject is doing something and something isn’t being done to the subject. For example:
Active: The boy hits the ball.
Passive: The ball was hit by the boy.
The latter is confusing and the meaning is buried.
3. Avoid Abbreviations
On Twitter this may seem inevitable, but if you’re surpassing the 140-character limit and feeling the urge to abbreviate, simply split the message into two tweets, or comment under the first. It’s better to have more tweets than accidentally abbreviate “association” incorrectly.
4. Be Clear
Think about your message – in the simplest terms, what are you trying to say? Write that. Your readers, and journalists, will appreciate your straightforwardness and it saves you from being bogged down by commas and clauses.
This may seem obvious, but too many brands fall victim to typos. I always recommend having a second set of eyes on every social media post – even if that means being late to the punch. In the words of a journalist, it’s better to be right than first.
– Katie McKee