Freelance writer Babu Basu warns writers and readers to beware. The seven deadly sins of bad writing are watching and waiting…
…ready to jump onto a page near you!
In the 21st century Voodoo doesn’t trouble us. Seances make us smile and horror films… we watch them to unwind. On the face of it, the knowledge and cynicism of the modern world keeps many demons at bay.
Many, but not all.
The bad news.
There is still one terror that permeates into business, advertising, marketing and almost any medium that uses words. This horrifying phenomenon eats away at profitability, reputation, success and in some cases, even your freedom.
When we write we are constantly being judged on the content and delivery of our words. What we say says a lot about us.
If your writing doesn’t possess the X Factor, then being judged on it is not a happy occurrence.
The need to write anything (be it an essay, blog entry, web content or heavens forbid, a book) can instantly turn otherwise brave and rational people into gibbering, quivering wrecks.
What should I say? How should I say it? Is the grammar correct? What about punctuation? What will people think? Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will they even be bothered to read it?
The seven deadly sins are bad news for business. Not heard of them? Well you will. Gird your loins everyone, I’m going in…
The evil begins – badly smelt bossinesssss rittting (badly spelt business writing)
A little mistake here, a little mistake there. We’ve all been guilty of this one. The modern world is about speed. We don’t have time to proof read. Do we?
Badly spelt words send out the message that we don’t care. Not only can we not spell, but also, we can’t be bothered to use the spell check or dictionary. And if we are sloppy in what we say, how sloppy are going to be with the product or service we provide?
A silly as it may seem to some, bad spelling is a fantastic way to lose customers or lose any authority we may have previously had.
The second evil – no punctuation at all ever and ever amen
Here’s a shock! Punctuation is not just for the grammar police.
It is there to inject sense into a sentence. Punctuation can emphasise a point, speed up or slow down the flow of words, or, as in the case of the comma, tell us when to draw breath.
Always remember, punctuation is there for the most important person on the page – the reader. Little or no punctuation tells the reader you don’t care about them and you’re not bothered about their opinion.
The third evil – Overrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr EXCITEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Adverts are notoriously bad for hyperbole. Hot for the hype.
This is a superb way of tiring the reader. Words have a rhythm. When you get over excited, your ears tire. Companies take note, shouting in adverts does not make people listen any better. It actually makes people switch off.
It’s not persuasive. It’s not credible. But it is one of the quickest way of to drive customers away.
And avoid the overuse of capitals – it is shouting in print.
The fourth evil – Liar liar, pants on fire.
Write lies and you will be in trouble.
Not only will this affect your reputation, it can also affect your freedom and/or your bank balance.
If you knowingly write untruths about a person, place, product or situation you could find yourself in court, facing libel charges.
Fancy facing a corporate manslaughter charge? If you deliberately write an untruth about a product and your product kills somebody, you could be facing a very long prison sentence.
This is the very worst sin. Stay away from it.
The fifth evil – Boring boring boring boring boring.
Sadly, insipid and uninspired writing is rife.
Businesses who bore their customers with tired, lifeless work, lose the attention of their customers and with it, the opportunity to sell.
You cannot afford to bore. If you truly cannot write with wit, hire someone who can.
The sixth evil – Fat and flabbbbbbby
No, this is not a reference to my waistline, but a fat and flabby way of writing. This will shock some people – Customers and suppliers will not wade through bad writing just to get to ‘the best bits’.
With effective communication, ‘less is more.’ Tell people what they need to know and then get the hell out.
The sixth evil is a great way to anger your reader. If you’ve got your mind set on being excessive, give readers the name and number of your competitors, because that’s where you are sending them.
The seventh evil – Lost and going nowhere
A good piece of writing needs direction. However, if you don’t know where you going, how is your reader supposed to know? A clear line of thought/argument is necessary if you want your readers to follow.
If it helps, use subheadings and signpost your readers. They’ll appreciate your effort.
Sins against writing grow strong in number. I call on you, the intelligent, thinking public to help me find examples of bad writing and send them to me.
Let’s fight the good fight.